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Published: April 2nd 2019
So here we are in Hanoi. The capital of Vietnam. It was from here Ho Chi Minh led the Viet Kong to victory in what locals refer to as the American War. You can see his preserved remains in an imposing citadel in the city centre. We didn't get to see him last time we were here, but this time, if it's on the cards, we shall pay ’Uncle Ho’ a visit on the 2nd of April. For now, we're all settled in the Belle Vie Hotel and have had an initial exploratory stroll around the city.
Hanoi is just as I remember it. That is utter, utter madness. A symphony of chaos that’s rapidly running down to inevitable entropy as the city eventually becomes chock full. It‘s not massively attractive either. It has an incoherent feel and a definite funky miasma. The pollution levels are sky high making it unpleasant even to walk around in some of the busy districts. If you have asthma, don’t come to Hanoi. This place will shorten your life.
The roads teem with thousands of mopeds barging around in a melee that overwhelms the senses and gives a sweat-inducing surge of adrenaline every
time you attempt to cross the street. But Hanoi is important. It stands as a beacon to the idea that the underdog can win. Even in the face of unlimited firepower. Populations with a focused revolutionary zeal can triumph no matter what resources they have. Belief is everything is the moral of the Vietnam story.
It's hard to gauge how big Hanoi is. It could be huge or maybe smaller than downtown Manchester. There’s not enough line of sight, and a disorientating blur between where the city ends and the suburbs begin. It’s densely packed too, a seething mass of humanity. The locals buzz around 24/7 on the roads and alleyways going about their business, eking out a living and looking for every advantage they can find in a place with so many others competing for the same limited resources.
The colonial past is written all over Hanoi, from Classical Chinese to imperial French to seventies gauche where each successive set of oppressors brought their own style palette to bear with the Hanoi residents filling in gaps in between. It has created strange etiolated buildings, connected by a dense network of electric cables that look eminently and imminently
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