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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Hanoi Me Day

OK.. first full day in Hanoi and I decided the executive decision of the day would be made in my favour... it would be for me to dedicate the entire day providing myself with 100% undivided attention.

Thank you. Tomorrow... Ha Long Bay...I needed it. Walking through the ancient streets of the unique Old Quarter, I basically did whatever I wanted and went in to each and every place I desired.  I refused to let myself be dictated to on whether or not I should conduct myself in a more exploratory, advantageous and culturally orientated manner. Selfish me said "screw it"... Yes, I must admit that the persnickety sightseeing me heard the various landmarks silently scolding me ... Hanoi's museums, old prisons, temples, etc were not impressed with being neglected.  I almost abolished my me-plans due to my sense of 'travel' obligation, but then I shoved a chloroform rag in that pie hole and when about my day in my previously planned selfish manner.

Heart be dammed. Grief be dammed. Regret be dammed.

I wasn't letting any of them in to my day.

Food... wine... massage... nails... toes... shopping - you're up! Show me your stuff.

Let's see what you can do.

I drank white wine... I drank red wine... I sat down in the city's most cosmopolitan social club and ordered the most fabulous salad from the menu. Sweet potatoes, goat cheese, pomegranate, rocket, lemon vinaigrette... and...


WHY is cilantro always haunting me? Only a couple years ago, it just didn't seem to be so prominent and forefront. Today it is everywhere.  It's almost become the 'drug' of choice for any restaurant putting anything on a plate. And they don't just use it as decoration.  It can't just be a sprinkling... nor can it be a lovely cluster sprucing up the side of the plate... They have to literally drape the entire dish in a thick duvet of cilantro. I don't get it.

When is basil going to make a comeback?  That's what I'm waiting for. Now it's probably no surprise that I'm not always the most prepared person when it comes to travel, but often I astonish myself.  I managed to muster up the brain power to translate "No Cilantro. No Coriander, No Mushrooms" in to Vietnamese, took a screen shot and saved the photo on my phone as a favourite.  I frequently pull it out while ordering. Sometimes I forget.

Like today.

...hence the cilantro.

If today's lunch served as any kind of lesson, reminder or example... I have to always renumber to make mention of my life threatening allergy to all of those things or my entire meal is riddled with them. If I was the leader of the entire world. I would get rid of cilantro, mushrooms and sharks.And plastic... to save the planet. And wine... to save me. Just kidding... I'd keep wine.

But I'd probably get rid of Vang Dalat.

So I went for a manicure and a pedicure. I got a full body hot stone massage. I bought everything in site and I just wandered around and around and around.  Most of the time, I really didn't have the slightest idea as to where I was heading... and I did end up doing a lot of backtracking. It didn't much matter, as I wasn't going anywhere in particular.  And time was not an issue.

At the beginning of the day, I meandered my way through the unfamiliar streets, diligently grasping on to the touristy city map that the hotel had graciously provided. But honestly... and no offence to Hanoi... all the roads seem to have the same name. Similar anyway.Hang Dao. Hang Duo. Hang Gio. Hang Bo. Hang Gai. It's tough... especially when the map writing is so teeny tiny and you're standing there, without your glasses, trying to figure out where you are in relation with where you're going... AND the whole time, you're trying not to be hit by a scooter. Or a few scooters. Now in saying these impolite and altogether unfair things about the road names , I fully appreciate the fact that I come from a country that predominately names their streets 1, 1A, 240thSW, 240thSE, 4th Street, 4th Avenue... I can absolutely see where navigation gets complicated. So yes, I backtracked, I crossed where I shouldn't cross, I headed West when I should have gone North... constant stopping, looking at the map... glasses on... glasses off... the print was SO small...

This stupid paper map was causing navigational chaos and I was having NO MORE of it...

You know what?

I am a prisoner of Google Maps and I am quite proud to admit it and I'm perfectly happy being held captive.  Elated, actually. I'm the Stockholm syndrome poster girl of Google Maps.  They have my love. I'm the Patty Hearst of GPS tracking devices... without the bank robbery and without the gun, of course.  Just me and that little blue dot directing me all over the city. Quite creepy if you really think about it....  Something up there is tracking my every move.

"Where were you at 2pm? We know you were at the corner of Hung Duo and Hang Dio eating ANOTHER deep friend shrimp gyoza stick.  Don't even try to tell us you weren't."

But the thing that really gets me while I'm walking the streets... is the honking.

INCESSANT. In essence, it's the irritating soundtrack to city life in Vietnam.

Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!

No one takes honking seriously because it doesn't necessarily mean anything.  No one raises an eyebrow. Zero concern. You do have to give the Vietnamese one thing though - they have anger management perfected.  No issues there... not on the road anyway. But the beeping.

It's not like Linh is being a bit slow on his scooter, checking out the surrounding stalls, and then Nhung comes up rapidly from behind - "Beep! Beep!" Linh suddenly thinks, "Oh! Silly me for dawdling! I can't be holding up traffic!"  Then Ling gives Nhung a little wave to say "thanks for alerting me" and then Nhung waves back "Have a great day."

Nope... it's not like that. At all.

But if you think that it seems life threatening to drive a scooter in this country, try being a pedestrian. Continuously dodging traffic, weaving your way through motor vehicles and mopeds that are coming at you from every direction... There has been more than one occasion where I have had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit. I have to quickly mention my manicure pedicure.  The reason that I believe this deserves a special mention is NOT because it took almost 2 hours to do my nails alone... the guy was a perfectionist.  I had to ask at one point if it would be ok if I got up to stretch.  But no... the reason that I think the mani pedi deserves special mention is because the staff were SO loud. Almost boisterous. They laughed, they made fun of each other, they yelled out things to people on the street, they gossiped... and the reason I find this behaviour so alarming and traumatic is because the people that work in the nail salons back home are quieter than ladybugs. You can hardly make out anything they say when they're standing right in front of you.

It's such a whisper. The massage was good as well... it wasn't as cheap as others I have had- but the girl walked on my back for about 20 minutes, so maybe that's why I paid more???  Feet tax. At the end of the massage, she stood there blocking my exit, smiling. I smiled too and went to shimmy past her.

She continued to block my passage and then started in on her little prepared speech. Vietnamese... so I had no idea what she was saying.. and believe me, she repeated herself.  I just stood there, blank, dazed like a thick bobble head, nodding endlessly... I thought she was asking me if I liked the massage.  

Yes... please let me out. Finally she pulled some money out of her pocket and it dawned on me.


The humility is overwhelming... My me-day wore me out and I was passed out at my hotel at 8:30pm.  I really didn't mean to sleep through the night... but it's what ended up happening. I was only intent of having a catnap... and then hitting the streets again to see where the night would take me.

Took me straight to bed.

But after a full day of pampering, spending money and a LOT of self-reflection, I came across this online and wanted to share it to thank everyone that has sent me words of love...

"Always pay attention to who is present and genuinely involved in your life at your hardest time." Joe Kay

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