I didn't really have any expectations of my time in Vietnam. I'd heard much, good and bad, and I guess I thought I'd maybe not get on too well with the rampant sales pitch. As a friend told me, there's no better capitalist than a communist.
Instead this country has blown me away. I've enjoyed everything about travelling through beautiful vietnam. Well, maybe not Hue!
The people, wow. So friendly, so helpful. Just delightful. From my street food guide in Hanoi to my adopted mum's in Hoi An and of course crazy Mr Bin as well as the countless people I met on the way - they've all been formative in my feelings for the country.
The food. The best things I've eaten have been fried catfish summer rolls in Hanoi, steamed mullet with tapioca noodles and mushrooms on the lake in the middle of the central Highlands, bbq pork on Lak lake and crab Pho in Dalat. Let's just say I'm definitely heavier than when I got here.
The scenery. From beautiful halong bay, to beaches, jungle, pine forests and agriculture, waterfalls and natural lakes. So stunning. And all sandwiched in between two crazy, vibrant cities.
The psyche. Vietnamese flags are everywhere on houses, reatsurants, toilets. Propaganda still reigns supreme in Vietnam with posters everywhere showing happy coal miners, farmers and soldiers. People seem to want the quiet life but I've heard a resentment at the corruption and extortion that goes on everywhere, every day. How long can the one party state last I wonder?
The religion. The majority of Vietnamese are Buddhist. But a Buddhism so different from anywhere else I've been to. I've not seen a monk whereas you can't walk down the street for tripping over them in Laos and Thailand. Their Buddha's are painted, often smiling and there's a lot of Hindu iconography that I keep asking about but can't quite get to the bottom of why. Catholicism is also strong, courtesy of the French colonialists and I've seen many churches and statues of JC. As with Laos, I think that religion plays a strong role in how people behave.
I leave with dodgy graduating tan on my legs thanks to bikes and motorbikes (nothing but class) and some incredible memories.
Cam on Vietnam. Cam on.