10 random observations of Hanoi

Hanoi, VietnamMan selling balloons in the middle of a busy intersection

After spending 4 months in smaller towns and beach huts, it was a bit of a shock to get into Hanoi. So many more sights and loud sounds, it was a bit of a shock to the system and took us a couple days to adjust. Here’s 10 random things that we didn’t expect.

Hanoi intersection madnessReady to cross the street? (photo credit: marinvee)

1. Crossing the street is an adventure. The traffic is insane. Thousands of scooters/motorbikes fill the streets plus a good number of cars, taxi’s, buses, trucks, bikes, rickshaws and people!  Many areas of the city it’s hard to find a stop light. Many intersections have no stop lights or even a stop sign. It’s chaos! The only way to cross the street is to pick where you want to go and walk at an even pace hoping the wall of scooters coming in every direction won’t hit you dead on. If you keep an even pace they swerve at the last minute and drive behind you. Loose your confidence and pause for one second and I’m sure you’ll be eating concrete. TIP: Cross with the power of numbers! Follow the locals lead.

Hanoi, VietnamProbably the strangest item we saw on the back of a scooter!

2. Did I mention there are scooters everywhere? It’s the main mode of transportation. You’ll see 3 (or more!) people on a scooter or a number of awkward items finely balanced on the back. Would you trust your brand new 42″ LCD TV with just one strap on the back of a scooter? Yikes!

The down side of eating street foodHmmm…. do we really want to eat here? (photo credit: beccabrian)

3. Street food looks sketchy. The alleys are covered with little set up shops serving soup and bbq items. Everyone sits on tiny chairs about 12″ off the ground eating the food. But look a little closer and you’ll see the streets are covered in litter and decomposing food. Add in rats running around and we at least started to think twice about eating any street food. Then to top it all off,  the cook’s will wash their woks and used dishes in the same grey water pot over and over again. Then, after a couple hours just dump that water on the street. Tread carefully. I’m sure all the street food is delicious and possibly even safe to eat. But, after getting extremely sick in Koh Lanta from something we ate we became even more super cautious on where and what we ate.

Vietnam Millitary History Museum, HanoiAmazing pile of crashed war planes made into art

4. The War museum shows a side of the Vietnam War you really don’t hear about. You really see how the war affected the people and it’s interesting to see the opposite sides story. The Vietnamese see it as a great victory that the entire country came together to claim it as their own again. After 100 years of French rule and American influence they finally managed to be in control of their own destiny. Or at least governed by their own people. I respect that.

Basket shopGet ready… these old ladies are gonna yell at you soon! (photo credit: Mahdeenma)

5. BUY SOMETHING! Every 15 feet while walking down the city quarters, you’ll hear an old lady yell this out to you. The city’s wares are divided into sections – travel agencies, silk, scarves, jeans, scooter, electronics – pretty much an area of the city for everything. You’ll eventually make the “BUY SOMETHING” become white noise.

Hanoi hotel 788Are you sure this is the hotel you think it is? (photo credit: oznasia)

6. Companies will copy names and sign designs to scam you. Hotels will copy the names of other hotels, and then pay taxi drivers and touts commission to bring you there rather than the real hotel. If it’s a high rated hotel in Lonely Planet, do some research first of the cross streets it should be on. This is also the same with travel agencies.

Hanoi, VietnamMmmm…. So good!

7. The food is excellent. After being in Thailand for 4 months and Laos for 2 weeks, it was so nice to see food with a European influence. The French were in country for 100 years and you see their influence heavily in the food. It’s nice to see a lot of familiar items. Vietnam is a huge exporter of coffee and it’s fantastic. To eat real baguettes again was quite a treat!

Busy Old QuarterBusy, Busy, Busy.

8. Much faster pace than the neighboring countries. After spending months on the southern islands of Thailand and weeks in Laos, it was tough to adjust to Hanoi. There’s so much noise all the time (HONK HONK HONK!!), traffic is crazy and people are everywhere at all times of the day.

Hanoi, VietnamBeautiful parks to find some peace and serenity

9. You can find calm spots within the city. There’s parks all over the place that are well designed and quite peaceful.

You are being censored in Vietnam.

10. The internet is censored and speeds are slow. You can’t login to sites like Facebook.com and instead have to go through proxy servers. Read about it on wikipedia. Be careful of what you post and access while in this country.

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