Vietnam had always been on my growing bucket list and so I made it to Hanoi a couple of years ago and chose to stay in in a small hotel called The Essence in the Old Quarter. The Essence of Hanoi for me was the ever smiling locals who welcome people like myself to see how they live.
For some life is very much hand to mouth, they are glad of a few dong earned from the tourists. For others there are jobs in the hotels which are springing up not just in the Old Quarter but in modern Hanoi too.
The Old Quarter is noisy, busy and dusty. They live their lives out on the streets from morning ‘til night whether it’s cooking fish, speeding by on mopeds or drinking beer on street corners. It is easy to get lost here but it’s also easy to find someone to direct you home. You can buy anything you want in these alleyways and I’m sure the world and his wife pass you by as you sit on Beer Corner on a tiny red plastic stool supping from a bottle of Ba Hoi.
But whatever they are doing, the Hanoiese smile, they are keen for you to bear their load from the yokes on which they carry their goods for sale, just so you can capture that ‘authentic’ holiday picture.
But perhaps I should have two bucket lists: the new one for those places that I’d like to return, as Hanoi would be first on the list. Thank you, Hanoi, for making me feel so welcome.