Sometimes, one has very specific reasons for visiting a certain city or country. And sometimes, one is just drawn to a place. Vietnam was one of those places for me. I admit, the food played a pretty big part in my decision to visit, but other than that, it was more about my preconceived idea of the place than any actual sights, activities or experiences.
For three weeks, I travelled from Hanoi to Saigon by train, bus and boat, stopping along the way to seek out quiet moments in a place that can get pretty hectic. Gradually, colours, shapes and textures revealed themselves as being parts of a certain leitmotif of the country.
They will always remind me of the serene, incense-filled Chinese temples in the middle of Saigon's intense urban sprawl, peaceful sunrises and sunsets in Halong Bay, Hoi An's colourful lanterns and flooded streets, Hue's crumbling and yet majestic ruins and Hanoi's street merchants.
Travelling through Vietnam isn't always easy. You get the occasional rat in your train compartment and don't even get me started on the ubiquitous bumpy rides in cramped vans. But in the end it pays off. You discover another new type of fruit that tastes even better than the previous one, you find yourself alone on a beautiful beach or you stumble upon a spectacular cave, and there's nowhere else you'd rather be.