Not much happened during those two days that I had to kill in Ha Noi before my flight. My hostel, shitty; the city, visited for the most part; the weather, rainy and my overall motivation level, low. I did check out the museum of fine arts, the Temple of Literature and the botanical garden but otherwise, my days were spend wandering aimlessly around the city and working in front of my computer. My thoughts were occupied with the coming med school interviews and planning for a life that would potentially change drastically in the near future. It seemed all the accumulated fatigue of the last couple of months had now all came down on my body and mind, this trip was over.
I had a few interesting encounters but not of them led to friendships that would endure past an hour or two. One of those was at a nearby bar, where for the better part of the night I conversed with a Vietnamese barmaid with the aim of improving her English. Another one was with Antoine, the French motorcycle enthusiast I met back in Sa Pa, but sadly, we only had a few minutes to catch up, he was on his way to the bus. Turns out he did not go to the north, the day after he had left, the seemingly unending flow of trucks got the best of him and he turned around.
Monday night I arrived at the airport quite early to find it already overcrowded with hordes of travelers but I managed to find a quiet spot to sit down and read in the arrivals area. A flight to Tokyo, a couple of hours spent waiting at the airport; across the Pacific to New York, more waiting and then I landed in Burlington, Vermont, where a friend picked me up with my car to drive me to Montreal. It was a long journey, but thankfully I was flying with Japan Airlines and got the exemplary service that is to be expected of anything Japanese plus a pretty nice in-flight entertainment system aboard a recently refurbished plane.
Thoughts on Vietnam
I have not seen all of South-East Asia, but so far I can confidently say that Vietnam is my favorite place of them all, You buy something?, motorbike?, traveling around can a serious pain in the butt on occasions, but everywhere in between, you come across genuinely nice encounters. Then again, you have to realize where the Vietnamese come from as a nation and instantly you become more tolerant towards the constant harassment. Landscapes are sort of the same story, the cities and the countryside can be downright ugly, Vietnam remains a poorer Asian country, but not far out lies absolutely spectacular sights of rice paddies surrounded by mountains and ethnic villages of wooden houses and water buffaloes herds. The still omnipresent communist architecture and propaganda get an honorable mention as well and so does the cultural variety of its people.
It’s exhausting to visit, but it’s well worth the effort, but be quick if you want to go, Vietnam has embraced modernity with both arms and like its neighbors, it’s increasingly capitalizing on tourism of the more destructive type a great deal to boost its economy. For that matter, the country’s principal tourism circuit, already quite limited, is starting to feel bland and denatured. There is still plenty to see and do not very far outside of it, get your own set of wheels and adventure will await around the corner. However, I suspect its only a question of time before the hordes of resort goers get there too.