After the past fortnight in the relatively sleepy Laos, it’s a shock to the system! People, bicycles, street vendors, cars, minion balloons, and most of all, motorbikes are spiralling around you as you attempt to navigate a path between the road and the pavement. It feels like you have been dropped into a soup of blended people and transport.
At one point I just stopped and used the stopwatch on my phone. 1 minute…….I counted 150 people who passed by me…in 1 direction only!
It was an amazing feeling just being in the centre of it, and fully welcomed. Everyone was doing something constantly, it was like an unwritten law that ‘taking it easy’ is not allowed in this place…….Eating, drinking, buying, selling, moving, talking……there was unstoppable energy everywhere!
To add to all the chaos, there were just no rules for the roads! Zero! None! Stop or go at that light? Some do some don’t. Drive on the right side of the road? Meh….maybe! After a bit of observation, we finally worked out how to walk across the road…..you just walk out! Just walk right out….close your eyes, deep breath, and just step into the road. You can move slow or fast, but as long as the speed is consistent everyone else just has to drive around you :-)
I haven’t read the statistics, but there may be something to this system. In the week I was there, I saw zero accidents, and amazingly, no traffic jams! For a city which has approximately 35 million motorbikes on the roads, that is pretty incredible.
We were staying in the Old Quarter, nicknamed the “36 Old Streets”. The area is old (it has a history of over 2000 years) and there a few more than 36 streets in the area. We were based on Hang Ga street which translates loosely to ‘chicken shop street’. There seems to be a theme to each of the streets. Some are full of picture frames, the next silk and fabrics, the next toys, the next metal works.
A few days wandering, trying to keep the pace as best we could. Enjoying the amazing hot and iced coffees with sweetened condensed milk, and a few Bia Hoi – the cheap-as-chips, locally and daily brewed beers. One of the great things about drinking and eating local is how simple it is most of the time….
“You want food?”
….and that’s it!…..You just get brought what’s being cooked that day :-) And it’s normally really good!
In order to get a bit of self-education (and to escape the traffic every now and again), I took advantage of some of the many museums that Hanoi has to offer, including the prison museum, the Women’s Museum, Hoi Chi Minh (Also known as ‘Uncle Hoi’ to the locals) Museum and the National History Museum.
On the final day of the week, I took a day trip over to Halong Bay. The weather was pretty grim, but the views breathtaking.
Awesome start to my time in Vietnam! Thanks Hanoi for the kick-start to the system again…..and for not killing me on your roads! :-)