Somehow we made it to our last week in Hanoi. A lot of people are happy to be leaving, but I miss the city already. I fell in love with the hectic-ness, the anything goes attitude, and how it challenged me every day.
The week begins with both Monday and Tuesday being flooded with work. I spend most of the day in Toong with small breaks to grab lunch with Kiwi, Jake and Flick. Afterwards it’s back to work until nightfall. Hey, you gotta work hard if you wanna play hard.
Wednesday brought us to our tradition of the #newoccasional sunrise club. This one was a bit trickier to plan since Hanoi is a fairly flat city and so finding a viewpoint is a bit harder. But thanks to John we decide to head to one of Hanoi’s bridges to hopefully catch a glimpse of the beauty. I absolutely love participating in this get together every month. I look forward to it. It’s the perfect way to say goodbye to a city. And to be honest, I almost like the build up of waking up, meeting with everyone, and getting to the chosen spot, more than the sunrise itself. Albeit, the sunrise is amazing as well (I’m not a crazy person). So after a little confusion with our uber driver we got dropped off at one end of the bridge and spent the next 30 minutes walking across the rickety structure to reach what we figured would be a prime viewing spot. Unfortunately, Hanoi is one of the more polluted areas that we’ve visited on this trip, so although we found a perfect viewpoint, the sunrise, itself, is covered by a haze. But, as usual with this perfect group of humans, we don’t let that get us down, and we appreciate this eerie glow presented to us. After 20 minutes of joking around, we decided to walk to the other side of the bridge and grab an uber back into the city. And that’s when it happens… as we walk back the sun peeks its rays out from the clouds and grants us a view! It may not have been the colorful skies that we had become accustomed to, but it was Vietnam’s version of the #newoccasional and we appreciated it. The rest of the day my sleepy self attended town hall and then met up with Em, Sakina, Lauren, and Kim to play Phase 10 to end the night.
As usual, the last Thursday of the month is always our farewell. For this month our theme was “The F Word: Failure”. To end the month we were taken an hour outside of the city to a meditative retreat. There we were fed (as usual, this time g-free too!!) and were then able to partake in various activities throughout the day. The first activity was guided meditation. I am absolutely terrible at clearing my mind for an hour and it is definitely something I would like to work on. Afterwards due to our early wake up that morning, we took a group nap having the heat of the day slowly lull us into a deep sleep. When we woke up it was time for us to dig deeper into our failures and talk about how we took those failures and made them into successes. It was extremely inspiring listening to my fellow tramily members and their stories. It’s incredible to see the level of trust and openness everyone has after only four months of travelling together. We ended the night with a huge bonfire where we made our own offerings for the future.
Friday was our last day in Hanoi. So after packing and repacking my bag I headed to the most delicious Pho place for dinner with Sadie. From there we picked up a bottle of wine and hung around her apartment while I waited for Sara to arrive. It turned out that Sara was planning to come to Vietnam on a solo trip for two weeks without knowing that we would overlap on her first day in Hanoi. Another coincidence! And one that obviously meant we needed to get drinks and have me introduce her to the tramily. We spent the night at Puku toasting to new friends and old.
Saturday is where my new found anxiety with Apple & iPhones started because regardless of the fact I set my alarm the previous afternoon for our early departure from Hanoi, no alarm went off. I was woken up by Pino, my roomie, with 8 minutes to go, and so my scrambling to shove all the last of my stuff into my luggage began. RIP all the small things I forgot along the way, I hope to not be that irresponsible again. Thankfully I remembered what our uniform for travel day was and so I slipped on my watermelon shirt and we made it to the airport on time. THANK GOD. With a small layover in Bangkok we finally made it to our month five home of Chiang Mai. Our apartments were stunning. Each of us had a one-bedroom apartment in three nearby buildings. They were new and modernly furnished. I could definitely get used to this. Stomachs rumbling, a bunch of us decided to explore the neighborhood and headed next door to our apartments for dinner at Cainito, where I ended up having the most delicious red chicken curry. And to end the night we found another one of our western home staples: frozen yougurt at Frose. Delicious start to CM!
As usual the first day in any new city is a day for exploring and collecting ones’ bearings. This first Sunday in Chiang Mai was no different. We started off the day with a brunch at Smoothie Blues with the city team where we got to meet the CUTEST and BEST team: Ton and Miao. You’re going to be reading a lot about how much I love them in the upcoming posts. Smoothie Blues pretty much has a children’s book sized menu of breakfast items and smoothies so everyone was extremely satisfied with their options. After filling our bellies, a group of us went to Maya Mall to check out the grocery store that would be our go-to for food for the upcoming month. Boy was I surprised when I walked in! This store is equivalent to a Whole Foods back home. Unfortunately the store was a bit more spendy than I would have liked for living in Asia, but since it had a solid amount of gluten free options for me to buy, I was a happy camper. After dropping off the groceries, we walked over to our new workspace, The Brick, to have the city preview and see what the team had in store for us in the upcoming month. They even started the presentation with a little snackpack for us. So cute! That evening we decided to grab some street food and explore the night market in old town Chiang Mai. It wasn’t long until Kim, Laura, and I were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people in the markets, and after a delicious chili lime ice pop, we flagged down a songthaew and headed home.
What a week. What a welcome to Chiang Mai. There are a lot of side trips awaiting me this month and I am super excited to see what they have in store for me!