Organised Chaos in Vietnam – Hugh

Some of you may be already aware, but for those of you that aren’t, I’m an identical twin.

My twin brother, Mark (20 minutes older, before you ask), has been living in Vietnam since August 2020, teaching English as a foreign language in many of the public schools around the country’s bustling capital city, Hanoi.

Due to Vietnam’s strict zero-covid stance – up until recently – we had been unable to see each other for the longest time since, well, ever. That’s why as soon as Vietnam opened their borders for tourism I was racing to book a flight to the country Mark had been gushing about for the best part of two years.

Oh, and to see my twin again…

So here are just a few of my observations after my 10-day manic tour of this beautiful country.

Traffic

One of the first things that any westerner will notice when leaving the airport is the traffic. What at first glance struck me as a stressful cocktail of cars, mopeds and pedestrians, quickly became a flowing river of close calls, squeaking horns and thousands of people making it work under difficult circumstances.

Although it takes a short while to get used to crossing the street into oncoming traffic, you soon realise that everyone works around each other, and if you follow two key rules, driving a moped is surprisingly safe.

Don’t turn around, don’t hit anyone.

Kindness

During my final day in Vietnam – whilst counting down the hours to my 37-hour journey home – I was rushing around Hanoi to pick up souvenirs and ended up at Mark’s local Bia hơi for one final 20p beer – yes, really.

I asked if I could buy one of their glasses to take home with me and before I could finish my request the owner of the bar brought out seven different glasses and insisted that I take them all without paying a single đồng.

This was just one of many examples (likely helped along by Mark’s impressively good Vietnamese language skills) of local people going out of their way to make us feel accommodated and welcome in their country.

Happiness & Gratitude

After just a few days in the country something became very, very apparent to me. I hadn’t seen a single stressed, unhappy, or otherwise annoyed person anywhere. Granted, most interactions I had were that of a customer/shopkeeper, but even after many hours of people watching, the same thing was clear to see.

It really does not take much to be happy, it’s how you approach life that makes the difference.

The Grass is Always Greener

Another thing you simply can’t ignore in Vietnam – and South East Asia in general – is the relentless natural beauty. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a bustling city or a secluded spot, all it takes is a quick 360 spin looking at the horizon to feel in awe of where you are.

Whilst most westerners are constantly enjoying their surroundings, for a lot of locals the incredible scenery is just another fact of life.

The opposite is also true; I was surprised at how many local Vietnamese people I spoke with that expressed their wish to see the rolling hills of England, something most Brits take for granted.

My main takeaways from this trip (besides the raging hangover) were to be appreciative of what you have, a little bit of hospitality goes a long way, and beer is far too expensive in the UK.