My Impression of Vietnam
In a day, my time in Vietnam will be over, and I will be embarking on another new adventure in Thailand. Though I am excited for my internship and new experiences in Chiang Mai, I will definitely miss Vietnam. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend three weeks in this beautiful country, accompanied by my boyfriend, a native of Hanoi. I journeyed as far south as Hoi An and saw some truly amazing places along the way. Without going into too much detail about each individual place I traveled to, I want to explain what these three weeks meant to me as an outsider lucky enough to see Vietnam through a native’s perspective. I don’t believe that anything I can write will do the country justice, but I will try.
Of course before I continue, I must specifically thank my boyfriend and his family for their kindness and generosity in my stay here.
I truly did not know what to expect of Vietnam. In the United States it seems that Vietnam has been immortalized as a dangerous Communist country while simultaneously being a taboo subject in the first place. When telling one woman that I would be doing an internship in Thailand and traveling to Vietnam for vacation, she remarked that it was “too bad” that I wasn’t going to Thailand for vacation instead. She was excited for me, and the comment was not supposed to be disparaging, but it nevertheless demonstrates that many Americans have attached a false stigma to Vietnam without really understanding anything about the country.
With its skyscrapers and gigantic shopping malls, Hanoi resembles any modern American city. The Old Quarter is a symbol of history as much as it is a symbol of the present and future with new developments, travel agencies, and foreigners. I must humbly admit that, though I strived to keep an open mind coming here, I never expected Hanoi to look this modern.
On the other hand, some of my discomfort in coming was probably due more to my fear that I would, with my extremely pale skin, blue eyes, and reddish hair, stick out in Vietnam. I feared more that my appearance would make me a target of theft or animosity. As I suspected, I do stick out here (and probably even more so considering that my day-to-day activity in Hanoi is usually outside of the touristy areas—though this is another reason why it’s been so wonderful to travel with a local). Thankfully my preconceived negative perception is far from the truth. People here are incredibly kind and curious. I have traveled through much of the country and have felt perfectly safe. It is true that I am stared at nearly everywhere I go, but it is never with malice; I suspect that people’s surprise is less due to my physical appearance and more due to me being with another Vietnamese.
In short, Vietnam is a beautiful country that offers something for everyone. If you love history you don’t have to wander far through cities like Hue and Hanoi to see layers upon layers of history. If you love nature you can travel nearly anywhere in the country to appreciate the beauty. If you love food you will find an abundance of amazing dishes to try. If you want an amazing experience in Vietnam, all you need is an open mind. My time here has certainly been worthwhile, and this is a place I want to return to.
Photo: I took this picture during my cruise of Ha Long Bay on the top of Cat Ba Island (which is known as the Gulf of Tonkin to Americans).
In my next blog posts, I’ll talk more about the cities I visited and how to travel like a local. I start my internship in Thailand on June 26, so I will be shortly posting about those experiences as well. Thanks for reading!