Expectation Management & seeking self help books

Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
Trip End Jul 27, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hanoi Backpackers Hostel
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hanoi. Everyone warned me of this city to the point of me being quite nervous of coming here. Turns out, noone ripped me off or was rude to me like I expected. It seems to be a bit of a pattern that I enjoy cities others hate or caution against. It happened in Bangkok, Dhaka and now here. What does that say about me? I don' know. Maybe this is the way to appreciate any place best: Arrive with the worst of expectations and it can only get better.

First impression on the bus ride from the airport: Vegas-style neon Karaoke jungle, a stampede of motorbikes, a honking concert and generally exactly what you'd expect from a SEA metropolis. The crazy traffic here beats that of Beirut, Khatmandu and even Dhaka, with the local flavour being streets clogged with motorcycles. They are whizzing about like bees in a hive, honking their way around each other, other vehicles and pedestrians. They come from all directions, in hundreds and they park on the side walks, so it is impossible to walk on them. You are left with no choice but to walk on the road risking your health or at the least sanity every few steps. Oddly, I am not that bothered by it, except for those times that drivers brush me as they pass a hair-width too closely. Guess I've worked up to this level of traffic madness. Bring it on! I am ready :)

My first noteworthy experience is me missing the tiny, kid-sized, plastic stool, when sitting down at a street stall for dinner. It hurt, tough more from the laughing than the actual fall. At another dinner spot, Rock Billy Bar/Cafe/Restaurant, they loop an old album of Modern Talking. Those of you who (are German enough to) know them will cringe now. I love this sh^&%&^t! Manu (who I finally caught up with here) is close to going bananas, while I am having a hayday :) Have a taste of it yourself, but be warned: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kHl4FoK1Ys

Hanoi for me has a very special charm that is difficult to describe or pinpoint. Like every big city, it is loud and busy and hectic and also rather dirty. I find its decrepit old colonial houses beautiful in their own way, like a wrinkley old lady that exudes wisdom under all the skin folds and still allows you to imagine the pretty, vibrant youth she once was. I could see myself living here for a while.

Of course, since we are here, we must visit Halong Bay. That's what people do when they come to Hanoi. It turns out to be jam-packed with tourists, utterly anticlimactic. As nice a scenery as it is, I find it devoit of any mystery or magic. In fact, as I am making these notes about Halong Bay, I can't think of anything else to write. The words 'nice' and 'tourist trap' summarize it perfectly. It's one of those things you can't come here without visiting. But in retrospect I don't feel I would have missed all that much. If you can stand it, I recommend you skip it!

It's too short a visit, we move on two days later since Manu already spent a chunk of time here waiting for me to catch up. What is shaping up to be a fast-paced and hectic Vietnam-tour due to Manu's interview schedule, should stress me and make me want to return soon. Instead, the thought of returning gnaws at me. I find it impossible to imagine stepping back into my old life after all this. Anyone got any self-help books or tips for returning long-term travelers?
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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