Five years is possibly too long before making a journey back to a place you called home for many years.
I mused over what Hanoi would be like after half a decade – it changed so much during the time I was there - but from the moment we disembarked at No Bai airport, so much felt so familiar, despite everything being so foreign to life back in Australia.
The motorbike and car horns - they seemed to have toned down a little, but still screamed their presence and rightful place on the roads. People eating and drinking, talking, laughing and debating on the streets - an important tradition that seemed to have strengthened rather than waned with a growing middle class. The Old Quarter's bustling streets - with their twisted powerlines and decorated shopfronts that spilled onto the pavements - still holding tight to their artisan heritage.
I had been warned that Hanoi had changed a lot, but in my eyes, it's essential charm and beauty remains firmly in tact. I met people on the streets I used to know. So many special places I used to frequent are still open for business and going strong. And the flavours and smells of Vietnam’s culinary delights - still entice me to take that extra bite and savour the lingering moment when the herbs and spices hit the taste buds.
The deep connection to this incredible city - with its chaos and noise, it's ancient architecture and modernised shops, it's old fruit sellers in conical hats and young hipsters perched on vespas immersed in iphone facebook - pulled me in and swept over me in a giant wave of emotion, engulfing my mind, body and soul.
What a blessing to again walk the streets marked with so many memories - of adventures with friends and colleagues, of beautiful encounters with strangers, of tears of frustration over misunderstandings and miscommunication, of travels to lands near and far.
Hanoi, forever under your spell. Vietnam, forever in my heart.