“Why do you want to go to Hà Nội? There is nothing there”, said parents and every other family member.
“Well, actually, I don’t know what you could actually do in Hà Nội”, said a friend from Hà Nội.
“See, the only people who would do this are those from the North”, commented my dad furiously on a car that parks in the middle of the street.
“Wow, a northern cuisine restaurant! I don’t think it will survive”, said someone that was actually probably me.
The North-South rivalry is something really embedded in our culture, perhaps more obvious within older generations than, say, millennial. It doesn’t have to be something of controversies – it’s just like LA vs. NYC, or Copenhagen vs. the whole Jutland. But I say “our culture” because I think Hanoian have a very different mindset towards us.
I first visited Hà Nội with my sister in May of 2017, after all those years traveling the “bottom half” of the country and living elsewhere across the ocean. We were honestly more nervous with this trips than with others, overseas included. After all, this was the first time we would get to experience the capital.
First impression: it’s like entering another country where people speak the same language as ours and one could still use the same phone number to use the Internet to book a ride from Grab or Uber. The distance between Nội Bài International Airport and the city center was too much for two clueless Southern girls to take a taxi ride. And bus: if one could afford and manage to get a ride from a car, avoid the bus. It’s too energy and time consuming to be worthy of the 10,000 VND investment (even when compared to the roughly 200,000 VND investment on a Grab ride). Actually, we did plan to pay for a shuttle bus ride. But after sitting around in the Vietnam Airlines shuttle for 30 minutes or so with the driver kept asking us and another rider to settle for 200,000 VND instead of 40,000 each, we decided to go with the Vietjet bus next door for 10,000 VND tickets. A wasted effort to remain loyal to Lotusmiles (Vietnam Airlines membership). And 10,000 VND is about 50 cents, fyi 🙂
As soon as the bus started rolling (as soon as we got on) and the air-conditioning environment wiped away all the worries inside our head, we realized ourselves being carried to another bus stop 200 meters (651 ft) away and asked to transfer to another bus. Then came another round of waiting. Some people were silently frustrated, while others with Northern accent or look remained as calm and assured as ever.
When this bus started rolling for real, we again realized that there was no system whatsoever to keep track of who went where: There was no set route, and the driver planned the whole trip in his head after he and his assistant personally asked everyone where his/her destination was.
Anyway, finally, after an hour later, through traffic and bottling frustration, we got to be in the center of the capital.
More to come.