Noisy, polluted, scams, robberies, aggressive touts – these were all words I’d heard describing Vietnam before going there. When I touched down in Hanoi, I was beginning to wonder whether I had made the right decision to spend a month backpacking from the north to the south.
But while all the haters were hating, I had to remind myself not to let it cloud my decision and that one of the great things about travel is that it’s all subjective. One person’s experience of a place, might not be the same as someone elses. So that’s why I decided to give Vietnam a chance. And I’m so glad I did – Vietnam is a country that is thriving with diversity and energy and has ended up being my favourite destination in South East Asia so far.
Street Food – As my nickname ‘Noodles’ may suggest, I’m a big fan of Asian food, and have a penchant for the cheeky Thai or Chinese takeaway from time to time. But nothing quite tops the street food in Vietnam. Whether it’s noodle soups, sticky rice, stuffed crispy pancakes, fresh spring rolls – Vietnam’s street food leaves such an explosion of flavours in the mouth, your taste buds won’t even know what hit them. Much of Vietnam’s culture is centred around food, bringing communities together. At any hour of the day. you’ll find the locals perched on plastic stools outside store fronts chowing down and enjoying each other's company. Eating street food is one of the best way’s to get to know the locals, so grab a stool and join them!
The Motorbikes – Aaah the motorbikes. The millions and millions of motorbikes. Anyone who has been to Vietnam will know that this is their preferred mode of transport and will be familiar with the terrifying (but fun) challenge of crossing the street. At first, it seems almost impossible as an army of motorbikes loudly whizz past you. As petrifying as it is, the trick is to keep walking at an even pace, and the motorcyclists will move around you. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be able to stand by and appreciate the beauty of this organised chaos.
1000s Years of History – Vietnam has a rich and fascinating history, and its colonial past is evident wherever you look. Having been occupied and divided by various countries over the decades, everything from its architecture to its food embodies different foreign influences. Plus, you only have to visit the museums and listen to stories from the locals to fully understand the aftermath of the Vietnam War. But while Vietnam may have a complicated past, it has still managed to emerge from it all with its own sense of culture.