Through the dense humidity, the scent of spice, coffee and herbs shine through the streets of Hanoi.
We perch ourselves delicately down on little stools, and soon steaming bowls of beef noodle soup sit with us. Around us are women barking orders at customers, weaving around scooters that are packed with families.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEEEEP! is becoming a familiar sound and crossing the road is a heroic act of bravery and faith. This is indeed the Hanoi I remember, the smells and sounds I remember, and a society that’s so full of the vibrancy of life.
On Saturday morning, we pulled ourselves out of bed. Our bags were packed from the night before, and though we had attempted to drift off early, the 5.30am wake-up call saw us only getting a hint of a wink of sleep. Arriving at Dublin Airport in good time, we met up with Mom and zoomed off to check-in. In one way, it’s no wonder that they ask you to arrive two hours in advance; after 50 minutes of queuing, they finally decided to put another person on the desk to speed things along.
Whizzing through security, we got to the gate and moved onto our Cityjet flight but 40 minutes later, we still hadn’t moved from the runway. Thus resulting in a rather amusing gallop through Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris for our connecting flight.
Our plane was turquoise, a giant metal bird that was able to race through the sky. Booked through Air France but operated by Vietnam Airlines, the Airbus 350 was a new aircraft.
Long-haul flights can break a person, and travelling with kids can try even the most patient of people but thankfully all the children were in Premium Economy (what recession?), so our ears were saved. This, funnily enough, was in contrast to our Dublin to Paris flight where children seemed to be tag teaming each other to see who was the loudest!
Served lunch, breakfast, cocktails, drinks and flown by Captain Hai Hai (yes, his name was rather wonderful!), the movies and games were enough to keep us entertained. We arrived at 6.20am in Hanoi, Sunday morning, tired, jet-lagged but excited nonetheless.
In Vietnam, in my opinion, the most entrepreneurial people are women. They line every inch of the street, selling food, clothes, toys, cooking and generally being the boss. They are intense, but admirable, fanning coal as they barbeque, or hauling goods on their bikes.
The city has changed but yet it’s still familiar. Here we are, in Hanoi, in a city that’s bustling and swimming in energy. Tomorrow (or today as I’m writing this), we’re heading to the hospital where I was born, almost 25 years ago. It’s good to be back.