The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 17 August 2015

The hustle and bustle of Hanoi

Hanoi is city of contrasts. It is here in the Vietnamese capital that one can see old Vietnamese traditions blending with modern French style, and seek tranquility at Hoan Kiem Lake in the middle of the chaotic traffic of the Old Quarter. It rained almost constantly all four days we were in Hanoi, but that did not keep us from exploring the city and enjoying the rich variety of street food. We discovered almost immediately that getting around on stroller was not only impractical, but near impossible with the congested pedestrian footpaths and crazy traffic whizzing by. Walking and crossing the streets of Hanoi is not for the faint-hearted - the roads are dominated by motorbike riders who pay no attention to traffic lights, often going the wrong direction, parking on the pedestrian footpaths, and riding too close to pedestrians who are forced to walk on the road. There is still a lot to love about this city, and I hope the following images can give an idea of what Hanoi is like.

The seemingly directionless traffic at a large intersection near the north of Hoan Kiem Lake:

Eating on little stools on the pedestrian footpath is a common sight in Hanoi. Here diners were enjoying bowls of pho in the drizzle, and vendors were making a bustling trade:

Huge ancient mangrove growing through buildings. It was nice to see the city working around these majestic growths rather than bulldozing them down:

For size comparison, here is a motorcyclist carrying a small child in front (partially hidden by the waterproof cape) and another passenger behind, as well as bags of goods hanging on both sides. Bike passengers usually are without helmets, including little children:

Exploring one of the pedestrians-only "walking streets" of the Old Quarter at night. :

Ta Hien Street, dubbed as the 'international section' in Old Quarter, makes up part of this walking street. The street was packed with foreign tourists and expats:

Vendors displaying fresh produce on the sidewalk, at the daytime street market near our hotel:

Preserved items are also popular items. Note the motorbikes parked on the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to share the road with crazy traffic:

A spot of bright colours in the dreary weather:

We took a cyclo ride for half hour on one of the mornings, and let these cyclo riders navigate through the traffic for us. Not much better and no less scary because these cyclos pay little attention to traffic rules too!

That's hubby and son in a cyclo in front, and up ahead near an intersection, motorcyclists are weaving in all directions:

We also did a half day tour with Hanoikids, which is a voluntary English club that gives tourists the opportunity to be shown around Hanoi by the local kids who wish to practise their English. The weather sucked, so we were brought to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology where we learned a lot about the histories of the different ethnic groups of Vietnam, and Hoa Lo Prison that was first used by French colonists for political prisoners and later on by North Vietnam for American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Later on in our trip, we caught a show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, which totally enthralled our 6-year-old and 21-month-old for the whole 30 minutes - definitely recommended for kids!

Lots more to share about Hanoi, especially the food and egg coffee, so stay tuned!

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