First stop, Hanoi

I love leaving for a trip. Not the stress of organizing for a vacation, or the checking and re-checking of what I’ve packed (or wondering if I’ve packed correctly), but I love the final surrender that comes over me when I get to the airport. I’m sort of awash with awe that the trip is actually happening, and stepping into the airport always makes me sorta giddy (this is only true of leaving for a vacation… I’m a little grouchy on the return trip).

Leaving for Vietnam was no exception. I had a perma-grin walking through the airport, and if you can believe it, was looking forward to the 19-hour journey across the Pacific. And the flight went fairly quickly, though there was a moment about six hours into the longest leg of our trip (Seattle to Seoul) when I realized we were only halfway into the flight and I wanted to freak out a bit, but I simply kicked back and watched another in-flight movie (did I mention that Korean Air was/is the best airline ever?)

Especen Hotel

Our hotel in Hanoi's Old Quarter

The flight completely zapped us of all our energy, though, but the smartest thing Grace did was book our Hanoi hotel in advance and have them meet us at the airport to give us a ride. Though our driver didn’t say one word to us on our trip into the city, seeing our name on the placard when we deboarded was the greatest of comforts. Heading straight to bed was even better.

We awoke über early (for us) to a new city… a new country… a new culture. Though it was 6 a.m., Hanoi was well awake as everyone was up to greet the day. Many people were out walking and exercising, especially around Hoan Kiem Lake, which was blocks from our hotel.

We spent the day walking the narrow streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, eating some fantastic food, finding many treasures – including some Vietnamese propaganda posters – and generally getting acclimated to Vietnam. The city was fast paced – the fastest paced city I’d ever visited – and even crossing the street was an adventure. Though there are crosswalks and some traffic lights, the way to get  across the street is to just go.

Though every crossing was an adventure, it didn’t take long to get comfortable walking around the city. The noise drove me a bit crazy, however. I recently looked back at the emails I sent my kids while traveling, and every one mentioned how everyone honked. I kept wishing that I had a small air horn to be part of the melee, but it was probably best that I didn’t.

The weather was spectacular – which made for easy sight seeing. Grace and I would check the weather forecast for Vietnam almost religiously before we left, and every day was supposedly thunderstorms, and made us a little nervous (plus Southeast Asia was having flooding issues at the time of our travel). Our first day there was a torrential downpour in the afternoon, but for the most part, we only had dry weather (except for the excessive humidity, of course!)

Some more photos of our stop in Hanoi:

A view of Turtle Tower through the trees

Turtle Tower, located in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake - Hanoi, Vietnam

The Huc Bridge, which crosses Hoan Kiem Lake to connect to Jade Island, home of the Temple of the Jade Mountain

Turtle Island

Turtle Island at night

And here’s my favorite photo of Hanoi, which I think captures so much of the city:

Hanoi, Vietnam

Old Quarter - Hanoi, Vietnam

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