Our flight from Bangkok to Hanoi was hassle free, the visa on arrival process at Hanoi was a little bureaucratic which meant that getting through immigration took about an hour but there is always an upside to these things, no waiting for our bags to arrive, they were looking very lonely on carousel number one.
On the taxi ride in we were excited to see people in the fields in their conical hats, how Vietnamese, and by the time we hit town we were reaching for the cameras to take photos of the extraordinary traffic. Little did we realise that was just the beginning.
The hotel is in the depths of the old town which is a warren of narrow streets clogged with all forms of traffic from; women carrying fruit, meat and other merchandise using traditional carrying poles, to those with laden bicycles as well as; cars, buses and a mass of motorcycles which are the peoples form of transport.
The footpaths are not for walking on, they are for motorcycle parking and where the bikes have not claimed the space, all forms of commerce spill out from the narrow shops and homes or, is just claimed by “pop-up” vendors. Street kitchens with people clustered around on tiny stools range from small operations selling fruit through to bigger operations with the cooking and dish washing all taking place on the footpath. I witnessed mobile fishmongers and butchers hauling there wares along the street using the carrying pole, they would stop on the road verge and cut the fish / meat to the clients requirements. Along side the food ventures the footpath becomes retail merchandising space or is used for light industrial activity.
It is exhilarating and overpowering at the same time, motorised traffic moves with one finger regularly tooting the horn, the hawkers are regularly trying to sell you the same goods you have just said “no thanks” to and all the time you are trying to negotiate your way along the street clogged on one side by commerce and on the other by a wall of traffic.
Your initial reaction is “how am I going to get across these streets?” Observing the locals is the best approach, you simply have to walk into the wall of oncoming traffic, looking to see if they are going to go in front or behind you, walk slowly but purposely and don’t run or be unpredictable. While it can initially be a little heart stopping, it works just as the traffic flow seems to.
I cannot do justice to describing Hanoi, it has been an amazing experience and I will let the pictures do the talking.