I’ve been here for four years now and feel quite settled. I have found Ho Chi Minh City a very friendly and pleasant place to live. During those four years and, in fact, even before I came here, I visited Hanoi on about 8 occasions.
I have never enjoyed it as much as Saigon, as I still prefer to the southern city. I don’t know what it was, but it never seemed as warm, on most occasions, literally
It had a drabness about it, that didn’t sit well. It is also less Westernised, though that is normally a plus for me. I recently went with my family for three days and was very pleasantly surprised.
That there has been a huge easing of regulations in the nation’s capital is beyond doubt; you sense it almost everywhere. The streets that always used to fall quiet at about 11:00 pm are now teeming with life until the early hours of the morning.
There are many more bars than there were even two years ago and the place had a real holiday feel about it.
The palpable excitement on the streets reminded me a little, though less so, of when the Berlin Wall came down.
I was lucky enough to have been there, and that joyous unfettered freedom was bursting out of everyone.
Hanoi’s bright young things have taken to the streets in enormous numbers. The Old Quarter is very much the focus for young fun.
The pedestrianisation of the streets around Hoan Kiem Lake at the weekends gets a massive thumbs up from me.
It was utterly delightful to stroll around the riverfront without fear of being clipped by a motorbike.
Hanoi is very much more similar to Saigon in these respects now. Hopefully it is a sign of the country becoming even closer.
As an outsider looking in, reunification has been achieved rather well.
Of course there are north south divides, but there are in every country, my own included. Vietnamese people are, in my experience, just about as warm and friendly as they come.
My two sons and one daughter-in-law, who made the trip, all commented that this was the friendliest country they have visited.
Hanoi has, of course, many famous cultural and historical sites in which to spend time.
In that sense it has not changed. I like that Vietnam, doesn’t over compensate for tourism in its cities.
The drive to Westernise everything is not as bad as in many other countries. Though personally, I can do without the western fast food and drink chains.
I have nothing against them, but it seems completely incongruous in an Asian City.
I love the fact that the bia hoi bars still exist, the ca phe shops are still predominantly king and that burgers and hotdogs do not rule the footpaths.
I also tried and adored the egg coffee for the first time. It is these unique experiences that make a city all the more memorable.
So, you’ve changed my mind Hanoi, I love you just as I do Saigon these days and cannot wait to return.