whizz, beep, bang
By the time I visited Vietnam for eight days in the summer of 2018, I'd been living in Japan for almost nine years, and would occasionally be told that I was more Japanese than British or American, and even "more Japanese than Japanese". I never really felt the anticipated culture shock in Japan. Even now, I don't really feel there's that much to be shocked about. (The common use of white surgical masks? The high level of politeness?)
Coming from Japan, however, I was unprepared for Vietnam.
The constant honking of horns, how close everyone and everything comes to everyone and everything else, bus drivers barking at you, airport information desk staffers straight up ignoring you. I was Leonardo DiCaprio, leaving the harmony of The Beach and returning to a world now foreign to me, one that assaulted the senses. We do adjust though, and on day two I relaxed into it. I ate some great food, met plenty of lovely people and grew to like it, to appreciate the intensity. Perhaps Bob Harris' whisky commercial should've been shot in the streets of Hanoi at night instead of a quiet luxurious studio in Tokyo.
Of the places I stayed, Hanoi's rawness made it best suited to street photography. The colors, the energy, the sudden torrential rains, the dirtiness of the streets, peace signs not being thrown up with ninja quickness (all too common in Japan) all made photographing the streets of Hanoi exciting and different.
Japan has me spoilt, it's true, but while I don't know if I'll return to Vietnam in the near future, seeing other countries in different economic stages, with different cultures, and challenging yourself to step outside your area of comfort, into things that you're unprepared for, can only lead to growth. And as long we live, so may we grow.