Asia Destinations Travel

Slender slice of Southeast Asia

My first taste of Asia

I discovered incredible beauty and addictive energy of Vietnam on a trip back in May 2013. It began in Ho Chi Minh City, in the south of the country and ended in Hanoi, allowing me to experience several cities and different regions. As I did not have a blog and time to start writing about it last year, constantly spreading myself too thin in London, I want to finally share my reflections and photographs in the series of posts.

This part of the world has always fascinated me. My friends and colleagues of various Asian origins and backgrounds, their stories and unique insights were and continue to be my inspiration to explore this vast and culturally-rich continent. It is also important to mention that I am not a massive foodie but when Asian and especially Vietnamese cuisine is involved I am the happiest person at the table or sat on a small plastic chair in the street, which was quite often the case during my trip.

A street seller in Hoi An preparing food

A street seller in Hoi An preparing food

Bun cha, a dish with barbecued slices of pork, thin rice vermicelli noodles and generous serving of herbs and green vegetables, bahn khoai, a hearty crΓͺpe and rice-paper rolls served with fresh dipping sauce are my favourite Vietnamese food and I recommend trying them. They include everything that I love about this cuisine – crunchy and smooth textures and sweet and sour flavours. Pho bo, a beef noodle soup is a culinary highlight of the north so it is best to order a bowl when visiting Hanoi and banh mi, a baguette with some very rich filling in the south.

The wounds of the past

I started being aware of the complexities of the world’s history and dark side of human nature very early on in life due to my own country’s painful events and war wounds so I could relate to what was mentioned by all the Vietnamese guides. They often said that they would like people to visit the country because of its nature and culture rather than the war and its legacy. I understand this point of view but it is difficult, almost impossible to omit it, skip it or remain silent, not now and not only in the context of Vietnam, when the language of hate intensifies across Europe.

Vietnam was always deeply engraved in my mind through history, culture and pop-culture. There are plenty of films portraying the Vietnam War that are important to me. Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Forest Gump… I could go on. Should I even mention the music? I love many songs from the 60s and the 70s. They capture the raw power, honesty and lyrical genius that expresses the revolt that was happening in people’s hearts, minds and out in the streets. Gimmie Shelter by the Rolling Stones and the cover version of Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix are two songs that will always make me think of these turbulent times.

As the wounds of the past heal, Vietnam is developing at a face pace and I believe it is down to its people, who are energetic, sharp in commerce and resilient by nature. It is about time I am writing about this amazing country as soon I will set off on my second Asian adventure!

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