By the time we made it to Vietnam that evening, I was finally starting to feel better from my food poisoning, which was just as well, because Hanoi is the noisiest, busiest, most overwhelming place I have ever been to in my life.
We spent the evening trying to acclimatize to the sensory overload that was Hanoi, including learning to walk out in front of hundreds of bikes to cross the road and assume they would stop for you; it was the only possible way.
We were fortunate enough to visit the Ho Chi Min Mausoleum and see “Uncle Ho,” as they call him. Queuing up to see him was all a bit intense, we had to line up in two lines silently with our arms unfolded and out of our pockets, we could not take in cameras and went through metal detectors before we went in. I was so nervous of doing something wrong or making eye contact with any of the armed guards that i stared at the ground throughout the whole queue until we finally got to see Uncle Ho. He was looking pretty past it, but I suppose that’s death for you.
We were confronted again with death when visiting the “Hanoi Hilton” or Hoa Lo Prison, which was used for political prisoners by French Colonists and POW’s during the Vietnam War. It never ceases to amaze me what one human being can do to another.
The rest of the day was spent wandering the streets of Hanoi in dazed confusion, I just couldn’t understand how so many people could be crammed into such a small environment. I mean, I’m from a small town in New Zealand where there is space everywhere, green trees and fields, clean air and blue sky; so this for me was the most far away I had ever felt from home, which was inconvenient, because I was about to get sick again. After spending a few days in Hanoi I had said goodbye to my group, who I would miss dearly and was now staying on my own in a new hotel, where I would be meeting up with my new group for a trip out to Ha long Bay that morning. However, as I was eating breakfast I had the sudden urge to vomit… like really sudden. I ran to the elevator, as I had no idea where the ground floor toilet was and furiously pushed the buttons hoping I would at least make it to my floor in time, I nearly ripped the handle off getting into my room, (which in my defence was already slightly broken) and power chucked for quite some time (which the other people on my floor probably heard since i had no time to shut the door). Needless to say I wasn’t feeling 100% and had to cancel my trip to Ha Long Bay – a huge disappointment and now needed to get myself to a doctor.
Fortunately I was prepared and had gotten a card for the doctors, who were supposedly pretty good. They weren’t exactly cheap – in fact I spent a huge part of my spending money on them, but they were certainly better than in Laos. I was somewhat better after leaving, but didn’t fully recover until I had been back in New Zealand for a few days.
It might have been a disappointing end, but it had been the journey of a lifetime and I had learnt so much about the world and about myself.