Our arrival in Hanoi was with heavy hearts (and shoulders–backpacks, duh). On our bus from Mai Chau, the scenic and friendly rice village home-stay we had just left, we were told our long awaited Ha Long bay cruise had been canceled due to a typhoon named Ramussan heading straight for the Northern Vietnamese coast. We were crushed. We had been daydreaming about relaxing on a wooden junk boat with margaritas in front of the impressive limestone cliffs for weeks; our constant early rising and incessant sweating made us feel like we had earned at least a little “vacation” from traveling. As we left the bus in the middle of the pouring rain carrying our lives on our backs, I tried to dodge the motorcycles aiming for me left, right and center. Crap, I did not miss this. Asian cities make it hard for you to daydream as you walk through their streets; if you let your guard down for a second you’re basically standing still in the middle of a revolving tour. They will not wait for you to wake up.
We got to Hanoi Backpackers Hostel after a little disorientation. In this massive city there is a little Western bubble that congregates in this one hostel, which could have been in London, Prague, or Miami. Tanned kids in muscle t’s and Good Morning Vietnam t-shirts all chat excitedly in the lobby over heaping bowls of fries and nachos (insert mouth watering here). After almost 7 weeks of rice, MSG and noodles, this place seemed like a dream. This is where I remembered that for better or for worse, I am American.
Feeling a little lost back in such a big city when we had spent the majority of our time in Vietnam in the rural mountains, our first order of business was to find food. We opted for a friendly-looking restaurant called the Happy Gecko. After flipping through the classic Vietnamese options, the found an entire list of our own classics. Burgers, pizza, fries…even apple pie. That was it. I had four days left in Vietnam and my stomach had officially hit its maximum Asian food capacity.