First Impressions: Hanoi Vietnam - Intentional Travelers

03 Apr First Impressions: Hanoi Vietnam

We’ve been in Hanoi, Vietnam for the last couple of days, and we’re loving it. It’s our first time in Asia, our first time in Vietnam, and it’s been a huge blessing to be staying with our good friends Major and Karen who are here doing international development work. It’s been a bit of a dream these past couple of days experiencing a whole new culture and adjusting to the time change. Here are some of my first impressions.

Chaos and Harmony

Hanoi is the perfect example of organized chaos. A perfect blend and balance of many things that do and don’t make sense.

For example, take a look at the picture above. At any given point, Hanoi’s streets are filled with mopeds, motorcycles, cars, and buses. It’s an endless sea with no painted lines. I can stare at traffic here all day, amazed at how many people are on the road, how effortlessly they all weave and dodge and somehow not hit each other or pedestrians. That’s right. Not only do they have to avoid each other, which is a truly amazing feat, but somehow, pedestrians cross along huge crowded roads at will amongst the endless lines of vehicles. Think of the video game frogger, but live action. It’s crazy.

And yet somehow it works. (We’ll post a video of what it’s like to cross a busy street soon.)

Delicious Food

Another good example of this balance of chaos and harmony is in the amazing food. At any given meal, you have tons of little dishes filled with all sorts of ingredients, varying in flavor, spiciness, temperature, and texture. You then take bits from each little dish and combine them in your bowl to make your meal. It’s counter-cultural to the American style of eating where each dish is eaten separately. Here, you create multiple different combinations of flavors depending on your preferences. The combinations are out of this world. Sweet, spicy, savory, tangy, sour, and bitter. What’s interesting is that each dish is ok by itself, but combined, it’s really, really good.


“This is Awesome”

Michelle told me I’m in the “honeymoon phase” of cultural adjustment in Hanoi which is probably true. I’m fascinated by this city and its people. It’s only been a few days, but it’s been so much fun to experience new things and draw a lot of comparisons to other cities and countries that we know. These last few days reminded me what I love about travel: the ability to learn about other cultures, to be humbled with how big our world is, to be present in the moment, and to be appreciative of all things.

We still have a couple weeks left, but I’m already excited to come back again another time. Another thing that makes sense and doesn’t make sense!



Our friends charming street in the heart of the city



“Announcement” – a community board found on some streets



No place to sleep? No problem.



Major and I wait for the bus and get photobombed by an ad



A vendor presses fresh sugan cane juice.



Sugar cane juice. Major tells us it’s healthy because there is, “no sugar added.” By the way, it was a $1.



I have discovered a new love for the combination of roasted peanuts and rice.



The interesting electrical wiring systems.



Michelle and Karen head out.


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  • Erin Brush
    Posted at 16:17h, 03 April

    So fun guys! Frogger is exactly how we’d describe the streets in Kampala too…made me smile that you’re experiencing the real life (somewhat terrifying) version elsewhere as well!

    Love seeing new places through your lens…keep it coming for those of us who are stateside anchored for now 😉

  • intentionaltravelers
    Posted at 05:07h, 05 April

    Thanks Erin! It’s funny to think how traffic crossing experiences from two very different cities, across the world from each other are so similar.

  • Chau
    Posted at 20:41h, 09 April

    Sugar cane juice! Quoc’s favorite… Have you gotten one in Portland? Sometimes they add kumquats or tangerine juice in there.

    • Jedd
      Posted at 04:26h, 13 April

      I think this was the first time either of us had fresh sugar cane juice so you guys will have to show us where we can get it in Portland. I’d love to try it with different flavors.

  • Hannah @GettingStamped
    Posted at 00:19h, 10 April

    My favorite part about Vietnam is the cheap beers!

    • Jedd
      Posted at 04:28h, 13 April

      I tried the Hanoi brand beer and it was ok. Any suggestions for others I should try? I still can’t believe the prices for food and drinks in general.

  • Erin
    Posted at 12:27h, 11 April

    Looks amazing I love your photos! I must admit I am envious, Vietnam has been on my bucket list for awhile. My brother is headed there next month so I shared your blog with him too! 🙂

    • Jedd
      Posted at 04:31h, 13 April

      Erin, I hope you go soon. I can’t say I know much about Vietnam other than Hanoi and Mai Chau, but from those two places alone I want to spend more time traveling, discovering, and eating. Thanks for sharing our blog. If you or your bro has any questions let us know. 🙂

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