On Hanoi Roads, He Who Dares Wins

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July 27th 2019
Published: July 27th 2019
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Tran Quoc PagodaTran Quoc PagodaTran Quoc Pagoda

Sunset behind the pagoda on West Lake.
I had heard that these Dreamliners change the colour tone of the cabin lighting to help you adjust to where you are going and the time of day. This plane was just showing off though, as we awoke to it cycling through all the colours of the rainbow, followed by a rainbow.

There were no problems at immigration, although we have had more friendly welcomes to a country. Sadly, we then had to wait an absolute age at the baggage reclaim as the bags all trickled through over a period of 50 minutes, not helped by the return of the vast number of shrink-wrapped boxes that we had seen being checked-in in London.

We did get to see quite a nice sunrise out of the windows by the baggage reclaim whilst we were waiting. Hopefully the first of many.

Usually the first thing we do on holiday is to pick-up a rental car and drive to the hotel. We really wouldn’t want to be doing that here as the roads are a complete free-for-all. There are not that many cars, but there are thousands upon thousands of mopeds, swarming all over the place, weaving in amongst the cars
Dreamliner Light-showDreamliner Light-showDreamliner Light-show

Our plane was showing off.
and around each other, swerving from lane to lane and not caring about which side of the road they are on, even going onto the footpaths when it suits them.

We got to the hotel at about 7.00am, but we had booked a room for the preceding night so we were able to get a few hours sleep. We find it absolutely exhausting when we travel west-to-east, even with the dubious help from the plane’s light-show. It’s only 1.00am in the UK so it was a natural time for us to go to sleep anyway.

We had a few hours sleep.

After a shower we felt vaguely human again so we set off out into the extreme heat and humidity. And the mopeds. It was bad enough taking our lives in our hands to cross the roads (even when we apparently had a green light, which anywhere else would mean that it would be safe to cross), but all the footpaths were covered in parked mopeds and were often blocked or too narrow for all the people trying to walk, so we spent half the time walking on the road. After a while though, we sort of
Airport SunriseAirport SunriseAirport Sunrise

Whilst waiting 50 minutes for our luggage.
got the hang of it, it just takes a lot of nerve and an assumption that the mopeds aren’t willingly going to crash into you. You also need to ignore all the horns, which would give New York a run for its money (see Two Horns, Call Yourself a New York Cab Driver?).

We went for a walk around the Hoan Kiem Lake (about a 30 minute walk) with a stop-off at the Ngoc Son Temple. It was 30,000 Dong to get in there. 30,000!? That’s outrageous! No, hang-on, that’s just over £1. It did mean breaking into one of my half million Dong notes however. You’ve really got to watch the zeros here! It was a stunning temple, including the bright red Sunbeam Bridge that is needed to get to it, as it is on an island in the lake.

At the weekend, the roads around the lake are closed to traffic, although that didn’t seem to stop the old moped however. It did make a massive difference. We then went for a walk around the Old Quarter, which meant bracing ourselves for all the traffic again.

We had our evening meal quite early, which would effectively have been lunch on UK time. Then
One Million DongOne Million DongOne Million Dong

How many zeros?
we headed to Tran Quoc Pagoda, which was only 50,000 Dong in a taxi. This is a charming little pagoda, again on an island, but this time in the West Lake. I was amazed to see that there were already at least another 20 sad photographers there before me, all with their tripods lined-up. I found a space and joined them.

My wife kept herself busy helping some Vietnamese with their English.

Whilst we were waiting for the sunset behind the pagoda, we saw what we have been dreading on this holiday - the mosquitoes. As soon as the sun went down, out they came. Mind you, they seemed to be assembling and preparing for combat, but for some reason they held off their attacks.

We got into another taxi to the night market. Despite being a shorter journey than the earlier one, this one set us back 200,000 Dong (they were both on meters). The night market was busy in the extreme, but well worth it, even though all we bought was a little bit of street food (which was grim). My daughter has wanted a designer bag for ages and for some reason, they seem
Sunbeam BridgeSunbeam BridgeSunbeam Bridge

The red bridge to the temple on Hoan Kiem Lake.
to be really cheap here.

We had expected Hanoi to be very similar to Bangkok. There are similarities such as the heat, the traffic, the mix of old and new and the street food, but there is also a lot that is different, the roads crammed with mopeds rather than cars and the smells are not the same. They say smells can invoke strong memories and when we went to Bangkok in 2006 (see Bangkok Sights, Sounds and Smells), the smells definitely reminded me of my backpacking days, but not here. It is also a lot less seedy than Bangkok - for example men can walk down the street without being propositioned all the time.

The night markets ended back at the Hoan Kiem Lake, which was now extremely busy, but with people not mopeds. Families were all out to enjoy their Saturday evening away from all the traffic.

We needed to face the roads again to get back to the hotel, which were now even more busy than they had been in the day and despite it being dark, headlights seem to be optional.

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9



All along the side of the West Lake, waiting for the sun to set and the pagoda to light-up.
Street FoodStreet Food
Street Food

Maybe I will try some more tomorrow.
Hoan Kiem Lake TempleHoan Kiem Lake Temple
Hoan Kiem Lake Temple

A temple to the turtle in a legend associated with the lake.

This is why we have to walk on the road.

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