Musing on my last flight to Hanoi

I am flying for the last time (for the foreseeable future) to Noi Bai International Airport. Lucky number 7th time flying into Hanoi.

I am coming from Hong Kong, where I was fortunate enough to spend an incredible weekend with my mom exploring the massive metropolitan maze and enjoying my mothers company for the first time since April.

Hong Kong was in a word: overwhelming. No matter where we were in the city, it felt like midtown Manhattan. Of all the cities I’ve ever been to, Hong Kong no doubt reminds me the most of New York City – from the colored subway lines to masses of people you have to weave through along the sidewalks to the abundance of stores from high end to street vendors. It is such a massive city and my mom and I only had two days to explore – I imagine we barely scratched the surface.

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Hong Kong Island from Kowloon, looking across Victoria Harbor

I arrived Friday afternoon but was exhausted from a late night in Hanoi the evening before, so I casually strolled along Victoria Harbor, the body of water separating the part of Hong Kong I was staying in, Kowloon, from Hong Kong Island, and watched “The Symphony of Lights” while delighting in some delectable street dim sum before turning in relatively early.

My mom arrived to the hotel Saturday morning at around 7am, too early. After a quick hello, I slept for another hour before we had a proper hello at breakfast. From there, we were on our way by 9:30. We walked back down along the harbor, and then took the ferry across from where we were staying to Hong Kong Island. Without much of a plan, we hopped on one of the double decker busses for a tour of the city. We drove around the dense metropolitan area which makes up the Hong Kong skyline, and then around to the southern part of the island to a district known as “Stanley”. There, we shopped and ate the best dumplings I’d ever had (which were usurped the following day). We made our way back into downtown Hong Kong, where we explored Hong Kong Park for a while before taking the tram up to Victoria Peak to delight in the stunning sweeping views of the city.  They even had a Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant at the top!  We walked down, wandered around the city some more, and ended up back at our hotel where we got dinner before collapsing from an exhausting but exciting day of adventure.

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Mom Kong

Sunday we took it easier, a later wake up and a less ambitious plan for the day.  We stayed in Kowloon, exploring some of the famous markets (Ladies Market, Bird Market, Flower Market, Fish Street, etc.), eating some famous dumplings, and enjoying a foot massage after two days of intense walking. We ate dinner atop the famous Peninsula Hotel at Felix, where I enjoyed the best tenderloin I’ve had easily since arriving in Asia. The view was spectacular. We walked back to our hotel and my mom had to leave quickly for her flight to London. It was great to see her, I cannot put into words how great it was so I won’t try.

In many ways, this trip to Hong Kong marked the beginning of the end of my time in Asia, the commencement of my grand final adventure. It is with pride that I start this adventure, having conquered (or survived) the most difficult task id ever undertaken – moving across the world by myself and living out here for a year.  From here on out, it is nothing but adventure until I get home December 24th.

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Hong Kong from Victoria Peak.  In the foreground is Downtown of Hong Kong Island, across Victoria Harbor is Kowloon.

In short, I will travel to Northern Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Bali, the Komodo Islands, Bali again, and Northern Thailand before returning to suburban New England.  I could go into details about the unimaginable assortment of friends and family lined up to visit me on this final journey, but I hope to continue to be updating the blog throughout, though it will likely become shorter and less reflective as my computer will be shipped home and I hate typing a lot on my phone (this post was written on my phone – can you tell the difference?).

Though never easy to say goodbye, it was much easier this time than in April to bid farewell to my mother, knowing that seven weeks from today she will pick me up at JFK in New York.

As I fly into Hanoi for the seventh and final time, I can’t help but think back to 43 weeks ago today when I first flew into Hanoi – scared shitless and with every reason to be. But like I said, I did it. Though at times it got rough, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and managed to survive a whole year on the other side of the world. If that doesn’t fill me with confidence that I can conquer anything life throws at me when I return stateside, nothing will.

Though my feelings are certainly a bit bittersweet. As difficult as it was, I’d say this has been the best year of my life in many regards.  The sense of adventure, of waking up each day on the other side of the world from home, is something I’ll have to get used to waking up without (though I think I’ll get used to the lack of roosters crowing at 5am quite quickly).  My mother and I talked and talked a lot all weekend (as naturally we had a lot of catching up to do) and I would think the conclusion I realized most is it was certainly the friends I made out here and the friends who visited who made this year what it was.  Without both friends made here and visitors from home, I wouldn’t have made it.  It is with slight apprehension that my excitement to return home grows.

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The Sunset I saw as I drove into Hanoi for the final time from Noi Bai International Airport

But in the mean time, my excitement for the rest of my adventure out here – basically five “once in a lifetime” trips back to back to back to back to back – is undeniable and completely justified. Stay tuned for updates from my “victory lap” of sorts around Asia.

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