Hanoi and Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay

Vietnam was one of the places I was most excited to visit while in Hong Kong, and it is unbelievably vibrant and charismatic. My cousin chalked up its frenetic energy to the war- much more of an every-man-for-himself culture developed in the aftermath, leading in part to the streets and honking that never stops. This ideology carries over to the general lack of traffic lights and pedestrian cross walks. While it isn’t quite true that you can close your eyes and walk across safely, you do have to trust that the drivers 1) won’t stop and 2) will go around you. A couple of the busses I took didn’t even fully stop to pick up passengers! They just slowed down and you had to get on while the bus was moving.

Vietnamese cuisine was also a huge part of my experience in Hanoi. In Northern Vietnam, French and Chinese influences are huge. Baguettes (or bánh) are everywhere and are most well known for their vital role in bánh mì (or bánh mỳ in the North), sandwiches made with pickled carrot and daikon, meats, and vegetables. The Chinese influence is most obvious in the fried noodles and rice that is less common in the South. In both regions there is a heavy influence on fresh herbs and vegetables, which was a welcome change from typical Hong Kong fare. Some of the most common herbs are Vietnamese Perilla (Tía Tô), Vietnamese Balm (Kinh Giới), and Spearmint (Húng Lủi). As is expected with a temperate climate, Hanoi and Ha Long Bay were green and lush. Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and surrounding grounds were beautifully landscaped and I spotted pomelo trees (Citrus maxima), Mango trees (Mangifera indica), Glossy Privet (Ligustrum lucidum), and Bald Cyprus (Taxodium distichum).