Vietnam is my 49th country. And I must say, that there is always this little sense of excitement and apprehension whenever I set foot on a new country. Flying into Hanoi gave me that feeling again, and it is a feeling that I haven't had in a while.
The last time I set foot in a new country was more than two years ago, in September 2016, when I flew to Iran. My Excitement Meter back then was through the roof: I brought in a significant amount of cash which I had to change a little bit of in order to get out of the airport, and three hours later I was sitting in a bus crossing the Iranian desert. The sights and sounds of a very different environment was enough to get my adrenaline running high. It is perhaps this sense of high that makes me want to visit a new country every now and then, and yes, when I review my list of countries that I have visited, I go back to the memory of setting foot in them for the first time. Some are of course more memorable (e.g. Ecuador, being my first trip to South America and I thought I was being kidnapped; or Georgia, when I was held at a land border and had to wait hours before they let me in) than others (e.g. San Marino, when I was asleep in the bus and didn't even realise we were in; or Canada, when I simply walked across a bridge).
Anyway, after more than two years of not visiting a new country, I landed in Hanoi. It was an interesting morning, and the airport wasn't chaotic, contrary to what I expected. Immigration procedures were straight-forward: without questions, the immigration officer stamped my passport. My bag showed up at the luggage belt, and I wasn't selected for random screening in Customs. Withdrawing money from the ATMs were also painless, and I easily found the bus that would take me to the centre of Hanoi.
Perhaps the shock came later, actually way later, on my third week in the country. Vietnam has a massive population, and they all ride motorbikes. I wasn't annoyed with the motorbikes until when we were about to leave. When I arrived at the bus stop in Old Hanoi, I didn't mind dodging the motorbikes as I crossed the road. If anything, I even thought that was a fun experience. And after a short walk, I found my guesthouse.
Vietnam isn't the most shocking country for me, when it comes to a first-timer arrival experience. Nevertheless, this high feeling of excitement is still there, when you know that there's a vast new country in front of you waiting to be explored.