(Written by Her)
Our first night in Hanoi didn’t give us much comfort. We arranged a driver to collect us from the airport and drive us the 1 hour stretch into the city. The trip took us along enormous motorways, beside teenage guys on motos doing wheelies, over giant steel bridges and finally into the suburbs of a built up city, overshadowed by apartment blocks in serious disrepair.
After a couple of days spent finding a new hotel and figuring out the lay of the land, it was reunification day. We were delighted to be in a major city for the celebrations and it most likely marked the turning point of our experience of Hanoi. The 30th of April 2015 marked 40 years since the Viet Cong troops in the North liberated Saigon, ending the Vietnam war. The unification of the 2 countries (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the North and the Republic of Vietnam in the South), actually happened on 2/07/1976 when the now Socialist Republic of Vietnam was born. North and South of Vietnam became one country again.
There were celebrations taking place all over the country. Parades, fireworks, flags raised in public spaces and private homes, and people returning home to their families for the few precious days off over this public holiday. In Hanoi, fireworks displays were taking place in four parts of the city (giving you some indication of the sheer scale of the place).
We weren’t seated 5 minutes before we had to acknowledge the stares from the surrounding families. We knew something was going on, we could even overhear a couple practicing some English sentences among themselves. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before they made their move. The father tried to place his 3 year old son on Cian’s knee – for a photo of course! The son objected loudly! As an alternative, the mother tried their other 9 year old son. He stood for a photo no problem. Upon seeing his older brother, the 3 year old hopped back in for photo number two.