Jet-lag! What Jet-lag?
Three days have passed since I arrived in Vietnam after my marathon airplane ride. During that time I’ve started to get a feel for the Vietnamese people and the city of Hanoi. Needless to say, Hanoi has been everything I’ve expected and read about. Below are a series of thoughts and stories about the last few days.
Yes; People really do wear those pointy rice farmer hats. In fact, it took me exactly two minutes after getting into my taxi at the airport to see someone walking along the side of the road wearing one of those hats. Since then I’ve seen tons of them. Ironically they always seem to be on women, and are being worn by people who appear to be the equivalent of a Vietnamese Babushka.
Motorbikes. Motorbikes Everywhere! Cars were only recently allowed into Vietnam as a country and as a result, the primary method of transportation is the motorbike. They are everywhere and serve both as personal transportation as well as cargo transportation.
My first experience of seeing someone using a bike for transportation was someone who had 2-3 dozen ducks crammed into a wire cage on the back of their bike. Those birds were about to be lunch and dinner. The concept itself seemed fairly normal and I was okay with it – in the US we do the same thing except use 18-wheel trucks. About five minutes later I saw the same thing, but instead of ducks it was a series of cages filled with mangey looking cats. Those too were probably going to be dinner and lunch somewhere. It was at this point that I accepted the fact that somewhere on this journey I’m probably going to eat both Tom and Jerry.
If there was one phrase that could be used to describe Hanoi completely, it would have to be “Organized Chaos”. The streets seem to have been randomly assembled based on the whims of the people paving each road. There are one-way streets, streets with dividing lanes that go each direction, roundabouts, patches of road that have four lanes…none of which have a specific required direction and are ultimately dictated by the flow of traffic, and one-way streets that become bi-directional streets. There are no fast lanes, slow lanes, passing lanes, or rules. If there were birds in the city, you’d never know over the constant chirping of car and bike horns. That all said – there is one rule of the road in Hanoi – Might is Right. Everyone gets the hell out of the way for busses and trucks. Pedestrians have to move over for everything. Cars have the right of way over bikes and people. Pedal powered bicycles lose to motorbikes but are more than capable of running over a walker. Combine all of that with one other rule – if you want to turn or cross a street you should just do it and assume people will go around you. I’ll be putting together a more comprehensive video of the traffic patterns of Hanoi soon. In the meantime, the video below is of a motorbike ride from a few days ago.
The food here has been incredible. And incredibly cheap! Yesterday for lunch I got a bottle of water and a plate of beef with noodles, bean sprouts, and some other things for $4.25. We had an expensive carry-out Thai dinner last night. My meal was $7 and for that I got a huge bag coconut milk rice and a basil chicken stir-fry. Other meals have been of the ‘order one of everything’ variety between one other person and our total has been around $10 for more food than two people could finish.
Today will most likely be my last day in Hanoi, and tomorrow I will attempt to venture off to Ha Long Bay. I’m going to book a 3day/2night cruise around the bay. At this point I’m not sure if I’ll sleep on the boat or the small island that is easily accessible and has a few hotels/hostels. Below is a picture of what I’m expecting out of Ha Long Bay.