Hanoi has been the most surprising aspect of my trip. I never had any of intentions of staying in one place for too long as I wanted to see as much of SE Asia as I could. Yet, I also mentioned how I was starting to realizing bouncing around at the speed of light wasn't feeling incredibly rewarding or like what I was looking for either. Back in Cambodia, the Aussie (Guy) and I, had said we might meet back up again in the North of Vietnam but, it was up in the air. We had spoken twice before I made it to Hanoi and we had agreed to definitely meet in Hanoi as he had plans to stay for a couple months and teach English. I had no idea what my plan would be once I arrived, how it would be between the two of us or if I would stay with him. So, I decided to jump off a cliff and see what happened.
My open bus ticket helped me meander my way north. I took about three weeks to slowly creep towards Hanoi and I'm glad I did. In Cambodia, I bounced around very quickly. Vietnam was when I learned to slow down. I loved Delat and Hoi An and stayed for days on end until it felt like time to move on. It was a much more enjoyable way to see cities and allowed me to relax into the experience. The cool thing about Vietnam is everyone is either traveling South to North or North to South so, you run into friends you've met at different spots along the way. It made the trek feel more familiar as I ran into fellow back packers. When I arrived in Hanoi, Guy was still making his way through Laos. I asked if he could get to me by Thanksgiving (a week and a half away at this point) and he said he would do his best.
My first few days in Hanoi felt really tough. It was rainy and cold, weather I neither prepared for or wanting. South Vietnam had been like Cambodia, hot and sticky. I had expected to be chasing summer during my travels and being hit with wintery weather was a downer. It felt especially hard staying in a hostel because there was no place to be cozy. I made do and spent a lot of time in a vegan cafe, sipping tea and reading. I made it my mission to try and walk as much as possible and get the lay of the land before meeting up with Guy and each day, I would wander around old quarter getting lost. Once I had gotten myself significantly lost, I would wind my way back slowly, without a map!, to get to know the city better.
Getting lost and wandering on my own, led me to amazing street food and doing my own street food tour. Vietnam has delicious street food! The trick is to find the spots that all the locals are at, everything is hot and being prepared fresh. It was during this mini street tour I decided to be less strict with my vegan diet and more open to the local cuisine. I still believe deeply in a vegan lifestyle but, I also believe in being able to eat more than rice and fruit. Plus, one of the main ways to explore a new culture is through it's food. And I was in the mood to explore.
My days mainly consisted of doing just that wandering, getting lost and finding new street food to try. Then on November 23rd, Guy arrived. I got us a private room and was upstairs getting ready when he breezed through the door. Seeing him again was equal parts shocking and exciting. When we left each other, I truly had no idea or expectation of seeing him again. I was content to let our paths cross if it felt right. When he walked through the door, icy cold from the freezing temps outside, I was so glad the Universe brought us together again. We left off exactly where had been and hit the ground running. It was that night, as I took him to explore streets that now felt like home, we decided to rent an apartment and stay for at least another month.
In an instant everything can change and November 23rd, was an instant game changer. Where I had planned to move quickly alone, I was now going to stop and stay awhile with someone special. It's funny how life works out isn't it?