Hanoi, Vietnam

(June 29) Vietnam. I am in love with you already. Never has a new place given me so many feelings so quickly.

And really it should have started off pretty badly!! I had a layover in Malaysia from midnight-6 am. There was nowhere to sleep. I snuck into an unopened restaurant around 2 and passed out in a booth until an hour later when someone who worked there came in and told me to leave. Then I fell asleep for another hour on another restaurant couch. I think those people took pity on me.

So I slept a total of two hours, my head was pounding, my legs so sore, and I was really starting to question my judgment of not allowing myself to rest more after climbing a mountain.

But all that changed as I was looking at the window of the plane, flying into a different country. I got really excited again. The roofs on the little houses were red and blue and there was a big river flowing along in between and it was so beautiful.

I waited forever in line to get my visa, and then I went to get a taxi. I had heard about scams, but I was like, what are the chances that a scam actually happens to me.

A man came over to me. "Tell me where you go," he said. I showed him my map. He told me a price, I got him to lower it. We agreed. Then he started walking toward the side of the airport and said "ok, my uncle take you." Then he told me to go in this big golf cart type thing with him. I started to back away. "That's not a car," I said, "I want a taxi." "Taxi coming," he said. There were other Vietnamese girls in there too and they said it was fine so I just got on, figuring I could just jump out if I really needed to.

We drove along. "Where is the taxi?" I said. "It coming," he said. Then a mile or so later an unmarked car pulls over in front of us. His uncle gets out. I said, "this is not a taxi!!!"

"No no no," he said, "airport company," and he showed me some paper in his glove compartment that I couldn't read.

I felt like it was kind of weird, but I didn't feel unsafe, and he didn't make me part from my bag so I said whatever and got in the back of the car. I had google maps on my phone, making sure we were going the right way.

We drove for a while and he was being pretty friendly and telling me how the proper taxi symbol costs too much money and it's no good. It was a 45 minute drive or so into town. Then......... Just about ten minutes from my hostel, he pulls over to a different hostel!

The only sign on the front said "Backpackers."

"No, it's not," I said, and just then a man came running out of the building (clearly knowing we were coming) with a clipboard.

"Welcome to your hostel!!!" He said.

I was getting mad. "This is NOT my hostel," I said. He told me they had two locations. I showed my driver the map again and I said you take me there right now.

So he did.

Apparently the scam is something where they pretend to be another hostel and charge you a ton of money etc. It's very common.

You would think this would stress me out but I actually just found it hilarious that it had actually happened to me. Then I realized I had gotten the address wrong anyway and had to walk 15 minutes to my real hostel.

Hanoi traffic. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. People are included with the cars rather than being separate. I am not exaggerating here - the traffic doesn't stop, so to cross the street you literally have to walk into the oncoming rush of cars/motorbikes and trust that no one is going to hit you. It works surprisingly well and makes me laugh out loud every time.

Women selling exotic fruits, people constantly yelling to you to buy things, the smells of incredible food, the cheapest clothes.. I don't know what it is about the energy of this city but instead of being overwhelming it just allows you to totally embrace the chaos. It is adorable.

Today I managed to successfully barter with someone for the first time in my life. I walked by a lake where a huge group of men had set up actual rusty gym equipment and were working out and a man called me over to try to lift something and just about died when I could. I ate this dish called Nom Du Du. This lady gave me the things she was selling and took my picture I think because she wanted a sale out of it but didn't get one. I paid $4 for donuts because these girls were touching my hair and telling me nice things and giggling at the same time they were filling up a bag and taking my money from my hand. Someone wrote about Vietnam that you have to have a sense of humor. You totally do. I adore this. All of it. It is so much fun.

Just over two weeks will be spent in this amazing country. I cannot wait