Since coming back to America after my first trip to Asia at the end of May, I have been getting an array of responses - some expected, some unwarranted - about what people think Asia is like. The majority of people are PUMPED about Asia, want to hear more about it, and can't wait to visit for themselves (MY KIND OF PEOPLE). A lot of people think traveling and experiencing a new culture is a great experience no matter where you end up. A ton of people are obsessed with the idea of Europe and don't really even have an opinion on Asia. And more people than I like to admit, make sure to to let me know that they "have no desire to ever go to Asia in their lives" (this response always makes me sad, ugh). At this point in time, when I tell people I am going back to Vietnam for an indefinite amount of time, I prepare myself for literally any response....
So after spending four months in Asia and becoming absolutely obsessed with it, I figured I would write a blog to try to convince you to go as well! Although I could write forever on why you should go to Sri Lanka and Thailand, this blog is going to be Vietnam focused because for some reason, I don't think people hear nearly enough about why Vietnam is amazing. Especially in America. So get ready for me to be PASSIONATE.
As you (hopefully) already know, going to modern-day Vietnam will not be anything like what you learned about the county in US history. For some reason, I feel like there is some weird stigma towards Vietnam in the US like it is the same place it was 50 year ago during the war. I have been asked (I kid you not) MORE THAN ONCE if i came close to getting trench foot during my time in Vietnam. Trench foot!!!
So let me just start by making sure this very clear; Vietnam is not a third world country, and it has one of the fastest growing economies in the region. There are a plethora of 5 star hotels, nice restaurants, local restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, bars, shopping plazas, karaoke bars, etc all over Vietnam. There are endless things to do while you're there, and I never once felt unsafe or out of place doing them.
One of my favorite places in all of Vietnam is the capital, Hanoi.
Hanoi is in the north of Vietnam and it is absolutely incredible. One of Danielle and I's favorite things to do in Hanoi is to walk down Bia Hoi Street (Beer Street) at night and sit down at one of the hundred little tables on the street and sidewalk and have a 44 cent beer and meet new friends. TONS of people are eating local foods and drinking Bia Hoi every night on that street. If you're lucky, you might even have the opportunity to try some chicken fingers (see our food blog for pictures of what a Vietnamese chicken finger really is) while you're there. If you think night life is fun in America, imagine replacing crowded bars or loud clubs with hundreds of people sitting outside eating, drinking and listening to music together. That's Hanoi's beer street for you!
Oh, and if you don't feel like walking home after all the excitement, Uber motorbikes are WAY more fun than regular Ubers (I LOVE ASIA OK).
If you're into fitness, mornings in Hanoi are going to be your favorite. Every morning, many locals wake up early (around 6 am) and join a group or individually exercise around the lake - and by exercise I mean anything from ballroom dancing to lifting weights. Even if you're not in the mood to exercise, waking up early enough to witness the fun is a must while you're in Hanoi! Watching zumba classes early in the morning was one of my favorite things to do while I was there.
If shopping is your thing, there is actually a whole block that is called "shoe street" in Hanoi. Nike, Adidas, heels, flip flops, Converse, anything you want, you will find it on this street (for so cheap it hurts). Although shoe street is my personal favorite, there are also streets full of clothing, hats, luggage, backpacks, toys, and literally anything else you could possibly need. Be prepared to come home with at least one new pair of shoes...