Dreaming of Halong

Hanoi has been such a culture shock - authentic, peaceful, vibrant, happy, chaotic and sad all at the same time. It’s been different coming from parts of Thailand that were very westernised, Hong Kong where I felt completely at home to somewhere like this that has pushed me completely out of my comfort zone. 

Today I’ve gone from the comfort of my nice hotel room to stepping outside into beautiful chaos. The paths on route to the main attractions are all taken up with street vendors renting scooters and cooking food on the pavement, so you wander into the road to get by, taking in all the smells and craziness whilst walking amongst the noisy oncoming traffic trying not to die because they don’t stop when you want to cross the road 😂. 

Instead you just hear ‘beep’ ‘beeeeeep’ every 2 seconds until you start to reach less crowded areas and you stop fearing for your life 🤣. We stumbled upon a quirky vegan cafe for lunch and I later sipped a Vietnamese coffee (made with condensed milk, if you’ve got a sweet tooth like me, you’ll love it) whilst overlooking Lake Kiem. You've also got to try egg coffee - it's amazing! 

At the weekend, they shut off the roads around the lake to make space for a buzzing and lively street market/festival with an electric atmosphere and stalls that seem to go on forever selling everything from clothes, shoes, ornaments, flowers, food and in particular a lot of ex factory North Face clothing. You’ll be high on life, thinking ‘this place is awesome’ - before quickly sobering up when you wander down a street hearing cries from dogs inside crates and frantic chickens tied up around a tree on a street selling nothing but meat, to then, less than 10 minutes later, sitting on a stunning roof top terrace overlooking the city, sipping on a cocktail enjoying delicious Japanese and Vietnamese fusion food. #Nom.  

This place is literally #AllTheFeels 

Despite witnessing some of the cruelty we all know goes on here, the other 90% of my stay has been totally thrilling and exciting - it’s the first place that’s really made me feel like I’m ‘travelling’ and I’d highly recommend a visit.

Next stop was Halong Bay. 

I rocked up to Cat Ba Island in a plush car service with massage recliner chairs & WiFi (so cool!!) to experience a massive bucket list item - Halong bay. As we were driving to meet our boat, I felt so emotional. I think the last 15 years, dreaming of travelling & quitting my job all bubbled up and poured out of my eyes at once. This place isn’t just the item near the top of my bucket list or a photo on my Pinterest board anymore - I’ve seen it, breathed in the air, kayaked around caves and jumped from the boat into the salty water. I also drank Saigon beer whilst soaking up the sun and surroundings, and finished the trip with afternoon tea on the bay too. So many pinch-me moments! 

THIS has been what I’ve been waiting for - my sort of ‘eat pray love’ moment. I’m not exactly feeling lost in life though - I’ve found a job I adore, a dude I love sharing life with, and I don’t feel like there’s anything missing exactly, but I do think I’ve been hanging on to some jealousy - of my friends who’ve already achieved their travelling dreams, and a sense of taking SO long to go for the things I wanted - like I’m late to the party. 

Without trying to sound like a travel wanker who went to Asia to find herself 🤣 I think all the emotions that day were a sense of peace - that I’ve arrived at this place I’ve been longing for. I mean, I still have a load of things I want to accomplish and I don’t think we ever truly ‘arrive’ as life’s a journey - but I recognise this feeling as one that I dreamed of as a teenager, the idea of this feeling kept me up crying so many nights in my twenties because I felt so unsettled and confused and directionless, and I just wanted to FEEL THIS! 

So I guess that explains all the tears - I’m so grateful that I’ve been blessed with circumstances that have brought me to this point (because we don’t get anywhere in life all by ourselves!) but also so proud of myself for just effing doing it (in the end) and it was completely worth the wait. 

If you’re waiting for your ‘one day’ - don’t give up - it will arrive at the most unexpected time!  

TRAVELCarly Frances