I'm sitting in a chic café downstairs from the hotel I'm staying at in the Tay Ho District in Hanoi. Outside, motorbikes buzz by incessantly. Two Vietnamese chatter away about something I'll never know over traditional coffee. Across the street, the red and gold flags of the USSR and Vietnam sit on a string decorating the roadside. And here I am, typing away, trying to capture my experience so far.
Before Hanoi, I spent a week in Ho Chi Minh City training mixed martial arts alongside three dozen practitioners from across the world. Under the tutelage of Jeff Chan and Jordan Preisinger, we trained twice a day at a beautiful facility called Saigon Sports Club. It was a great week of learning not only martial arts but also about Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City is home to over ten million people dispersed over twenty-two districts. I didn't explore each as we had limited time between training sessions, meals, and sleep, but I was able to explore some when able. Choosing which to go to was challenging. There was so much to see. So, I would pick a place to eat in an area I haven't explored, then hail a ride there. After eating, I'd choose a direction and start walking. I loved the simplicity of it. No tickets, no reservations, just moving one foot after to bring the world a little closer to me. I'd weave along the streets, avoiding parked stalls where locals would sell street food, wares, and more. Whether I liked it or not, I would experience the aromas emanating from the tightly packed restaurants lining the streets. How could there be so many eateries? Next to a restaurant might be a makeshift mechanic servicing the ubiquitous motorbikes most Vietnamese get around on. Or perhaps a woman is selling just rice makers. They'd be piled on top of one another in teetering stacks so tightly that the only remaining space was for the woman's chair.
I found myself trying to understand how the flow of life here came to be. However, objective observation brought more answers than open questions did. Last night, after checking into my hotel, I walked around Tay Ho Lake to find some food. It was rush hour. A choir of beeps and honks filled the air. A soft breeze blew over from the water. Two older men playe