December 2014: I decided to travel with friends this time, and guess who joined me! My Swiss friends, Patricia and Sabine. Got to know these two when they came to Sri Lanka some years back for their Masters degree researches. Had a great time with them, and when they went back, they kept in touch. Missing friends is never fun, and last year we decided we should meet again, and thought why not meet in a country none of us have been to. So Vietnam it was and in the midst of extra busy work times and general chaos, we managed to organize the trip. Met the girls in Thailand and it was like they had never left.
The first two hours in Hanoi were a weird experience. From the confusing hotel drivers who picked us up, bundled us into a van only to ask us to change vehicles just outside the airport parking lot, to the drive to the city, I was not pleased. We all thought we would die, the way the driver maneuvered the vehicle, and the drive was quite long. However, we came safely to the hotel, and the people there were extremely friendly. The room was quite good too, white and bright. The girls slept for most of the evening, given their longer flight. I decided to walk out a bit, but stuck to the immediate lanes in case the girls woke. When they did, we went out walking and discovered not just quaint food in little alleyways, but a beautiful cathedral with larger-than-life Christmas decor and a Vietnamese wedding, next to an international coffee house (architecture and posters were very European). Watching the lights come on on the Christmas decor, sitting with my two Swiss friends, in a coffee house serving an eclectic mix of international drinks was a moment of pure joy and wonder. This was the highlight for me for Hanoi. I did not feel entirely comfortable with the shops atmosphere. Somehow it felt like the proverbial concrete jungle, and I was not happy.
We went to Hoi An (I was sponsored by the girls, which I thought was extremely sweet and generous) and I really loved it. We had a private chalet-like room, very spacious and lovely. It had two bathrooms that were open to the sky, with wooden bamboo walls. I loved it, especially that the beds were super comfortable and large.
The basics of the trip being covered, I feel that a more comprehensive and heart-felt post is required for the rest of the trip. Hence, this will be post 1, or the synopsis, while part 2 will cover the details. Until then!