When we used to live in Beijing, there were tons of places in Asia we wanted to visit. And there were a few that were at the very bottom of my list. And the country at the very bottom of that one? Vietnam. Why? I don't know. There was lots of Asia and of China itself I wanted to see first. There was probably some prejudice as well – at the time it seemed to me less charming than Laos, less radically different than Thailand, too popular with tourists and therefore maybe too conventional? Whatever the reasons, we spent four and a half years in Beijing, and never even considered visiting Vietnam.
But with time, one changes. And now we find ourselves living back in China (a thing we once swore we'd never do again), in Guangzhou (the last Chinese city we would have thought of living in), and we're loving it! And it's also made me more interested in the places and cultures of Southeast Asia, especially of what was once called Cochinchina. And Vietnam, suddenly, became the top destination in our list of countries to visit this second time around in China. Just like that.
And so, as our first trip outside of China, and as our 17th anniversary trip, we chose the North of Vietnam. There was so much we wanted to see and do. But we also wanted to spend enough time seeing what was worth seeing. In the end, we stuck to two places – Hanoi, and Halong Bay. The area once called Tonkin (hence the tittle for this blog post series). It was one amazing trip and anniversary. And you should be warned there are very many posts coming ahead.
While those get written, though, I leave you with a lotus from the Temple of Literature in Hanoi. The lotus is the symbol of Vietnam. As a flower that rises from the mud and blooms beautiful above the water, it's a metaphor for resilience and optimism. Nothing could be more accurate.