It’s true what they say; Vietnam really is a Garden of Eden for gastronauts. After the repetitive cuisine of the DPRK (cold and spicy was the recurring theme; still, better than what the country’s residents are provided with) it’s been an absolute delight to sample such culinary excellence. A recommendation for anyone travelling here: the Green Tangerine restaurant in the Old Quarter of Hanoi has to be seen (and the food tasted) to be believed.
So, to overall impressions of this city. It has all the makings of a Samuel Beckett play in three acts, verging from the sublime to the ridiculous via the tragic. Sublime, the cuisine; ridiculous, the traffic, and tragic, seeing a war veteran who had lost both his legs being given a piggy-back ride through the French Quarter by a young woman.
The streets of Hanoi are pretty lethal, owing to the amount of traffic and the absence of traffic jams. 90% of the vehicles are motorbikes, and they stop for nothing, be it man, woman or car. It makes walking around the city utterly exhausting, as switching off for one second could spell disaster. At the end of each day my nerves have been frazzled into ash just because of the concentration required to get from A to B. It’s a stark contrast from Pyongyang’s half-deserted roads.
But now it’s time for me to return home. I feel far more than last year that I’ve become acquainted with the true grit and graft required for the bona fide travelling experience; I’ve had to rely on my wits a lot more this time round and while it’s meant that this trip did not have the fairytale quality that last year’s did, I think I’m better equipped for future expeditions.
And so, time to re-join the rat race…and once again, I can’t help but feel that I’ll be running with a different number on my jersey.