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Hanoi, Vietnam

Written on: Thursday December 28th, 2006

A journal entry from: Southeast Asia

Hanoi impacts strongly when arriving by plane from Laos.  Such a contrast! The density of vehicles, the random driving, the constant honking, the persistant vendors - the vibrancy of it all is quite an awakening!  Just crossing the street can be a problem!  Greg is constantly treating me like a child just learning traffic rules. Rules? There aren't any, it's just survival!  Imagine narrow streets with cyclos dodging pedestrians, motorscooters weaving around buses, taxis stopping wherever, bicycles loaded with deliveries, vendors cooking meals on sidewalks ... all forcing pedestrians to walk among the chaos. All vehicles and pedestrians converge at once at intersections weaving between each other. No stoplights or stop signs. The only rule is walk slowly across without watching and don't make any sudden changes. The vehicles will swerve to miss you.  

Laos, with its total population of just over 6 million, is still sleeping in comparison to Vietnam with its population of over 84 million. Hanoi alone has over 6 million people with 3 1/2 million scooters!  This is certainly a nation that is beginning to embrace some virtues and problems of capitalism, while still retaining the charms and traditions of the past.  On the freeway from the airport you could see water buffalo pulling plows in the rice paddies and on the streets of the Old Quarter of Hanoi it is just as common to see blacksmiths pounding on metal, herb sellers with concoctions of cures, basket weavers ... We are really looking forward to exploring this city!

Loved this city, particularly discovering the different streets selling the same wares (a street for clothes, a street for shoes, candy, baskets, silver, all street names reflecting what they sell - even coffins.)  We enjoyed going to the Ethnology Museum, The Ho Chi Minh Museum and the Traditional Water Puppet Theatre.  Greg loved the Bia Hoi (cold draft beer) that was sold on certain street corners. You would sit on a tiny stool hoping that the traffic would miss you, talking to the locals or other travellers for 20 cents a glass.   We will miss our wonderful room at the Prince II as we leave north on the train to Sapa.