Hanoi, Would the Chicken Cross the Road?

Not unless it is suicidal…


Over the past few months I heard titbits of what Vietnam was like and was apprehensive as I arrived in Hanoi. I was told that the vendors are persistent and do not leave you alone, they grab your sleeve and do not let go. Perhaps Hanoi is not as bad as other places in the country because that was not my experience. Other places like Siem Reap or Bali were far worse. You could not walk a step without several people throwing a scarf in your face or shouting the inevitable “Tuk tuk?” or “Massage?” “You buy?” In Hanoi for the most part, I was left in peace to enjoy the city and peruse at the tourist shops.

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

It is a bustling city, full of activity and in many ways, a welcome relief from the quiet of Luang Prabang. The novelty did wear off after a couple of days as the dire warnings about the traffic were indeed true. Wave after wave of motorbikes, the road full of them, driving in all directions, regardless of traffic regulations. One way streets, traffic lights and anything else that supposedly regulates this activity completely ignored. The pavements are almost entirely occupied by parked motorbikes, stalls selling souvenirs or a couple of saucepans cooking something and a few people sitting on tiny stools enjoying their meal. This means that you have to walk on the road along all the cars, motorbikes and bicycles. Most Asian places I have visited had few or no traffic lights, therefore you cross when you can. My trick was to walk onto the road, look at whoever was coming and hold my hand up like a traffic warden. It worked every time. Except here…Nobody stopped in Hanoi. Crossing big roads was a nightmare. Stopping at every step hoping fervently that the incoming motorbikes would weave around me, which they did. Nerve wracking nonetheless. Every now and then there would be a small bit of free pavement and I would choose the spot to open my map and confirm where I was going. Several times I was bumped by an incoming motorbike who clearly wanted to park there. The fact that I was standing there of no importance to the driver.

Temple of Literature, Hanoi

Temple of Literature, Hanoi

The food is nice but feels expensive. In some places I have trouble getting my head around the local currency, I hear thousands or hundred thousands and I panic. One day I was looking at some pretty hand embroidered table mats but I left thinking they were too expensive. Once in the hotel I worked out they were £3…

Both the Temple of Literature and Hoan Kiem Lake are wonderful, must see attractions as well as the Vietnamese Women’s Museum. After so many temples over the last few months, it was the museum that I enjoyed the most. It showcases women’s role in society and it was fascinating. It runs from family, marriage, babies, the years 1930-1975, costume, sewing and fabric colouring techniques. I did not know that some lines are matrilineal and the husband leaves his family to move into his wife’s and of course, when it comes to babies, girls are favoured. There were also videos showing how dyes are obtained with different leaves and bark. It was one of the best afternoons I have had on my trip.

Unfortunately the weather did not behave and it was cold, cloudy, misty and a little foggy. As were Halong Bay and Sapa which I really wanted to visit. I saw some photos of Halong Bay taken by fellow hotels guests a couple of days earlier and you could not see anything. No point attempting it. I know I have missed two wonderful places but I believe that what lays ahead will be just as fantastic.

Huc Bridge, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

Huc Bridge, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

1 thought on “Hanoi, Would the Chicken Cross the Road?

  1. Although these countries have never appealed to me for travel destinations, the pictures here look so tranquil, peaceful and manicured…

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