I’ve noticed over the years that I/we always miss places where we’ve spent time regardless of how much we’ve liked the place or not. I guess it’s because all places have a nice side. We can’t say Hanoi is our favourite city but it has a charm and is very different from what we are used to.
These are some of the things that made an impression: The death defying road crossings full of street peddlers and packed with crazy bike riders. Early morning propaganda announcements made over a tannoy system mounted atop street posts. People always on the go like any large city, except for the ones sleeping using their motorbikes as hammocks just inches away from manic traffic. One dollar pineapples sliced and diced on offer in the streets. Fifty cent beer at the local Bia Hoi places. Primary school children flooding out at 4.30 pm and congregating on the pavement playing cards, running, fighting, waiting for parents on bikes to pick them up. Four to a motorbike including tiny kids who look like they’ve only just learned to stand and there they are holding on to the handle bars while the parent scooters along without a care.
Food served at packed street eateries on kindergarten sized stools. The Bun Cha, spring rolls and not forgetting the Bun Bo Nam Bo!
The old people in the park who meet up and gossip and the people who exercise in gentle Chinese fashion by waving their arms. Nice food and not so nice food and places you would normally never dream of eating. Dark alleyways leading to surprisingly interesting little cafes.
The range of drinks; yoghurt coffee and egg coffee at “Cong” Caphes (as spelt in Vietnam) hibiscus and jelly drinks, avocado and coconut smoothies.
So there is a lot we take away from this city after our three weeks here…
We’ve been trying to take some photos and video that really show the traffic but with no luck – maybe because when it’s really bad we forget about the camera and concentrate on staying safe! It really is totally out of control, and I mean no rules, no stopping at lights by at least 30% of the motorcyclists, same percentage driving up the wrong side of the road or up one way streets and on the pavements. You can hardly use the pavements as they are full of parked or moving motorcycles so one has to walk in the street. We had a particularly hairy experience walking to a local Bia Hoi (the one with steamed dog on the menu). It was rush hour, the lane-way was no wider than a small car with local stores either side spilling out onto the street, meat, offal, fruit, veg and all sorts of mechanical parts mixed together in one big frenzied motorcycle race going both directions. The only way to navigate this is to walk calmly through the racing cycles, coming at you from the front and the back, and not to give way. ONLY then will they avoid you (one hopes!) and ride round you missing you by a whisker. We made it to the Bia Hoi place but not sure if our underwear made it at all, Malene’s eyes looked bloodshot and I downed 2 beers before feeling normal again, but the food was good and rush hour was over by the time we left.