I will speak further about the train journey from Danang to Hanoi in a later post about the awesome train journies we took in Vietnam, but now to our short but more than sufficient time spent in the crazy city that is Hanoi.
It is quite surprising that either of us survived the day prior to Halong Bay and the day before leaving to Bangkok in the city of the motorbike. Apparently there are 10 million motorbikes in Hanoi and 5 million of them are on the streets at any one time (the other half are still on the streets, just parked all over them and the pavements). Needless to say the atmosphere is one of revving craziness, where an average road cross can take anywhere up to 10 minutes.
The rules are basically…there are none. So as you approach a traffic light, presuming that of course the traffic will stop on red…don’t be so ridiculous! Why, this is merely an opportunity for people to just continue but on the wrong side of the road. Similarly when crossing a one way street, how on earth can you be surprised at that speeding motorbike racing around the corner in the wrong direction?! Oh and when you cross a road when the traffic has stopped, albeit a tad slowly due to previous mentioned lessons learnt, being egged forward by the drivers who seem so confused at your hesitation, don’t be surprised if when they see you finally enter the road they then speed up and try to run you over ( as happened to Andy), shaking their head at you for being so stupid.
As you can imagine it was all pretty stressful and exhausting. It seemed the only way to be able to cope was to just try and ‘go with it’. The slower you walked, the easier it became and you were also able to get a closer look at some of the fantastic things that make the city tick.
Above all of those was the incredible street food. Street food stalls are actually illegal in the city, so in a bid to make a quick runner from the Police, the locals have managed to ensure they have enough plastic stools and tables on the street that they can lift inside in a ‘one-er’ if they hear the warning signals. There is no point in attempting to walk along the pavement in Hanoi as if it is not clogged with motorbikes then it is with these plastic stools crammed with locals enjoying some of Northern Vietnam’s finest food. The most popular dish is Phoh which is essentially a noodle soup. On our first night Andrew found a popular local haunt selling only this dish for about 40p a bowl. It was truly delicious and definitely gave a new meaning to the term fast food; we were in and out in less than 20 mintes!
On another occasion in the city we tried a little place at the corner of our road which appeared popular with the locals. We somehow managed to order ourselves some fried rice and vegetable dish of sorts which was literally amazing. Even better that the whole thing, including beers, came to less than $3 and was cooked on the street right in front of us.
There is a vast amount of history in the city of Hanoi, however, we were pretty tied for time on both visits and to be honest were pretty tired. We managed to survive the walk to the Temple of Literature, which was a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of the streets, followed by the Prison’s museum. I would have liked to have visited the ethnography museum, but I suppose that will have to wait until next time.
The time came for us to make our way to Halong Bay for a 3 day boat trip and we were thankful to be leaving the craziness behind to soak up some nature tranquility…