Lonely Planet made Hanoi sound like a darling French city, but in reality it was the dirtiest and craziest Asian city yet. Maybe we’d just been worn down after months of vendors yelling “Lady! Madame! Lady!” and whiffing stale pig carcasses…but then Dan arrived fresh off the boat from Los Angeles and didn’t fancy Hanoi either. Posh Daniel from London hated Hanoi almost as much as he hated pho, which “tastes like dead cat in dishwater.”
I have an advertising degree and still am scraping to find a positive spin on Hanoi. Hmmm… ok… here’s one: Hanoi encourages responsible drinking. Because all the bars close at midnight, forcing you to relocate to sketchy underground clubs where guys mistake you for a prostitute (I am worth more than $400!!!) Sure, you could leave the party, but with the lack of 24-hour convenience stores there’s no munchies motivating you to do so. Nursing a hangover? Have fun dodging motorbikes while carrying a 40-pound backpack in 100-degree, 95% humidity conditions. Because of this, Silken and I spent most of our time at Highlands, the Vietnamese equivalent to Starbucks.
We booked a two-night Ha Long Bay cruise to escape Hanoi’s hold for a hot second. This was much needed, and by the time we returned to Hanoi for Halloween we were ready to crush the city. We just needed costumes. I planned on using my hostel bed sheet to be a ghost, but in a tragic turn of events the hostel had puke-brown sheets. Nicole and I wandered the streets looking for fake Nikes and Halloween inspiration when our prayers were answered: a convenience store selling a bunch of goblin masks and felt jack-o-lanterns. We found Halloween in a hopeless, anti-American place! 100,000 Dong later, and Nicole and I transformed into a couple of pumpkins roaming Hanoi. The locals loved us, and I was pleasantly surprised to see them joining in the Halloween fun!
The streets were packed with Vietnamese costumed children riding scooters, bikes, and rollerblading from store-to-store, trick-or-treating. Our hostel offered face painting, so Anika and Daniel turned into a kitty cat and skeleton. Around Hanoi we ran, skeletons and Jack-O-Lanterns on the loose, stopping only so we could buy spring rolls and so Daniel could steal a Pomeranian puppy. We took a taxi to Westlake, full of white people at a house party – a very Californian Halloween indeed. Halloween rocked. November 1st was spent eating 5 bowls of pho in Vietnam Backpacker’s Hostel TV room. November 2nd we got the fuq outta Hanoi, boarding a sleeper train to Sapa.