Monday, January 9

Hanoi

On Dec 10 we flew from Seattle to Hanoi, Vietnam. (See the map below for the location of Hanoi. Yes, yes, I've shamelessly stolen the map from Lonely Planet. My hope is that they won't really mind, because I've also linked their website. )


As with all images posted on this blog, click to enlarge.

We landed in Hanoi at 10:30 pm, and because we didn't want to deal with wandering around a foreign city at night, jetlagged and exhausted, searching for budget accomodations, we had booked a room in advance. We paid $17/night, which we quickly realized was far too much and so we changed rooms the next day. Despite being overpriced, our first room was on the 6th floor of an old hotel and gave us a great view of the city.


View from our first hotel room over the rooftops in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

The next morning, I woke up early to go running and headed for Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of the Old Quarter. (The Old Quarter is a neighborhood of Hanoi, popular with the backpacking crowd because it has lots of budget accommodation.) I was slightly nervous because I wasn't sure how safe it was, but I needn't have worried. At 6 am, although it was still dark outside, the lake was bustling with activity. Groups of locals gathered for tai chi, while other used park benches to perform stretching exercises. Running around the Lake in the early morning is one of my fondest memories of Hanoi.


Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi's Old Quarter.

After my run, we hit the streets of Hanoi. Our first mission was a new hotel room, and after a bit of searching we found a clean, spacious, bright room with a lovely balcony for only $10/night.
OK, it smelled faintly of sewage, but at that price we didn't mind.


New hotel room: now that's more like it!

We dropped our packs at our new digs and headed back out to wander wide-eyed around Hanoi. One of the things that struck us right away is that the streets are packed with touts that won't leave you alone. It seems as though there is always someone trying to sell you something: fruit, a hotel room, bread, fish, chicken claws, a tour, something, anything.


Street vendor selling vegetables


Fish sold from the back of a bicycle


I honestly don't even know what these items are.

Another notable thing about Hanoi was the traffic. It was absolute madness. The streets are packed with motorscooters because cars are too expensive for most Vietnamese, thanks to an outrageous 200% government tax. In some ways this is a good thing, because if you replaced every scooter with a car, traffic would never move. There just wouldn't be enough room on the road.


Hanoi street madness

But it wasn't just the sheer quantity of scooters - it was also the fact that there appear to be no traffic laws. Lanes, if they are even indicated on the pavement, are just an approximation. One-way streets mean that most of the traffic on that street goes in the given direction. At an intersection, there's no need to stop. Just slow down, honk your horn a bit, and barrel through. And speaking of horns - they were constant. From 6 am til midnight the honking of horns literally never stopped.

So picture all of this, and then imagine crossing the street. You've gotta do it if you want to explore, but the traffic is dense and ceaseless. So what do you do? You slowly and deliberately step off the curb and directly into traffic. The first time you do it seems like pure insanity, and as you look up to see a scooter heading right for you, you definitely have to quell the urge to start running for the opposite curb. But you must stand your ground. Move slowly! Don't show fear! And without fail (most of the time, anyway) the scooter will swerve around you at the last minute.



Tom getting ready to step into traffic.

After a long day of dodging scooters and touts, by 4 pm we were ready for some relaxation. So we grabbed a couple Tiger beers and headed to our balcony to chill out for a bit and write in our journals, every once in a while looking up and saying to one another in exhausted amazement "Holy crap. We're on a balcony in Hanoi, Vietnam."



-Jessi

2 Comments:

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Hi Jessi & Tom,
Found you while doing a search about liveaboard moorage in Seattle. I do not have the liveaboard boat yet, but am doing my homework. Would love to speak with you sometime about your experience with the liveaboard life so far.

 
At 8:16 AM, Blogger jazzytraveler said...

okay, sorry I'm a bit behind but I gotta comment anyways...
I totally ran at the lake multiple mornings but then quickly traded it for the Sofitell private gym. What can I say, sometimes I prefer to be a gym rat rather then battling with the walkers, talkers and that random lady that kept following me :P Your pictures are fantastic, the bad thing about traveling so long is that you forget to take pictures of the things that will matter when you get home (ie. the traffic) Which brings me to my final comment (sorry sometimes I talk a lot) The traffic. As you know I drove in Vietnam a lot, and eventually I loved it. The funny thing about it is that when I got to Thailand I was like: "What the heck people!!! Drive!! What's this yellow line?! Why aren't you passing him?!! Honk damnit! hooooonk!" As you can tell, it changed me.

 

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