Everyone seems to be out, from a tiny wizened old lady I saw who must have been at least 85 years old I think if not older to loads of little children, too.
This paints a picture of my first night in Hanoi. Pictures can’t convey how busy this place is though. Traffic comes flying round corners at you every which way, honking wildly. Hundreds of motorbikes, with 2, 3 or even 4 people crammed onto them weave around pedestrians and cars like shuttles on a loom. And there are loads of cars too, all merrily honking away. The traffic lights must be purely for decoration, I think. No one pays attention to them.
At one point, I was stuck trying to cross a really not very wide road along with a young British couple. All three of us were being typically apologetic and cautious, until we all simultaneously realised it was getting us nowhere, so we just stepped out into the traffic hoping it would stop for us. This seems to be the way it’s done here. The young lady grinned and giggled at me as we made it across, and I saluted them saying, “Teamwork!” Travelling is full of these momentary little challenges. Every time I manage to step up to one, it feels like a massive achievement! It’s lovely to experience moments of camaraderie with fellow travellers, too.
The pavements everywhere are ramshackle and broken, or made up of tiles slippery with rain. Everywhere, there are people sitting on tiny children’s plastic chairs outside cafés, homes and market stalls, eating dinner with chopsticks. Between all those people and the motorbikes stacked along the pavement, there’s really nowhere to walk. Just progressing through the streets seems to involve taking your life in your own hands!
Once I reached the night market it was a relief as they’d cordoned off some of the road, to stop the traffic. But even then sometimes an enterprising motorcyclist would appear from a side street and come hurtling through! The market was incredibly long and still going strong at 10pm in spite of the rain. A lot of the shops were still open too. I would’ve taken photos of the market but I thought I’d probably either get run over or slip or trip up or something!
At one point I noticed this temple peeking out opposite a load of market stalls:
I bought myself a baked sweet potato piping hot from one of the stools. Filling comfort food in this strange place that’s quite unlike any place I’ve ever been before.
Then I wandered back to the hotel via a different route that was less frantic and had wider pavements, and to my delight, stumbled across this series of street art on the arches under what I think must be a city centre railway or tram line:
One last traveller’s triumph I had this evening was getting from the airport to the hotel. The hotel had sent me an email offering to book me a transfer for $18USD. I managed to walk onto an express city centre shuttle bus and pay the equivalent of $1.50 instead. Well, not quite that little as I had to change some money at the airport as none of the cash points were working, so they gave me a less good exchange rate. So let’s call it $1.80. To give you an idea, that was 35000 Vietnamese Dong for a 45 minute journey.