Edit Blog Post
Published: March 28th 2008
Old Quarter traffic
motorbike and cyclo city.
It's day #2 in Hanoi, and I'm trying to adapt to all this honking. I got an early exposure from the driver taking me from the airport to my hotel, who was kind enough to demonstrate quite readily his fondness for the horn.
He isn't alone. I assume this isn't just true in Hanoi, but other areas of Vietnam too? Wow. Why are they all honking?
The streets are a bit crazy, granted. The lack of traffic lights and stop signs at most intersections in the Old Quarter of Hanoi surely don't help things, nor do the amount of motorbikes. But still, the horns could use a rest.
In spite of this, I like Honk Honk Hanoi so far. I'm staying in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. It's a fascinating area. The Lonely Planet claims the Old Quarter began in the 13th century when Hanoi's 36 guilds each established themselves along a different street. The names of the streets corresponded to the trades. Thus, silk street (Pho Hang Gai) was where the silk merchants resided and sold their products. Although the trades no longer completely conform to their streets, they do follow a general pattern. On the negative
Sugar Cane Anyone?
It's for sale on the street.
side, a street may change names every couple of blocks to account for the different trades present, which makes a map crucial in finding one's way around. The buildings are also very narrow. Apparently, the property owners were taxed based on the width of their buildings along the street. Thus, the buildings are narrow and deep.
There are motorbikes (mostly scooters) everywhere along these narrow streets. They outnumber cars probably 15 to 1. Crossing streets is always an adventure. For those video gamers in the early 80's, visualize the game Frogger. You cross in stages...hop (ok, this isn't frogger...you walk) forward here, pause for the next motorbike to pass, then forward again, stop for a few more motorbikes, move forward, etc. until you're through the traffic. Waiting for the traffic to clear isn't realistic on many streets. It doesn't. I didn't realize this initially, and I waited a long time at my first street corner until a local showed me the way to cross (J.D. & Jonathan - takes you back to China, right? But substitute motorbikes for cars, and take out the lines!).
Speaking of the Lonely Planet travel guide, that was my first purchase along the
Golden Lotus Hotel
in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, room 502.
streets of Hanoi. I was quickly approached when I left my hotel by street vendors selling books (including the backpacker staple, Lonely Planet). Granted, these books aren't originals, but the vendor tried to get me to pay the retail price of $23.99. Yeah, right! I offered $5. After a lot of haggling, I bought it for $8. I don't even know if that was a good deal, but I like to think it was. 😊
Many places accept U.S. dollars, although the Vietnamese currency is more common. I'm using the Vietnamese currency (dong) exclusively now since that initial purchase of the Lonely Planet in dollars.
Things here are relatively inexpensive for the Western tourists. I'm staying in a midrange hotel named the Golden Lotus for $45. It's actually a splurge for me. It's possible to get decent places for $20, but I opted to jump to the next class level mainly for the broadband internet access included in the rooms so I could watch March Madness over the internet. Let me tell you...worth it! I watched all of the UCLA/Western Kentucky game live (go UCLA!), and parts of the other Thursday college basketball games too. The only drawback
What is this?
Passion fruit mousse at KOTO.
is that the 1st game started around 6:00 a.m. due to the time change with America.
As you might expect if you know me well, I'm quite excited about all these new restaurants I get to try...I am a foodie after all. I can't help myself from checking out some of the best restaurants in town. My favorite so far is KOTO. The service isn't the best - but that's to be expected. It's a non-profit restaurant to train and mentor former street kids and disadvantaged youth. The servers are generally young with limited knowledge of English. Still, this place works. The food is exceptional. I had a tuna fish salad sandwich as an entree and passion fruit mousse for dessert. Both were excellent (cost $8 including bottled water). The restaurant is across the street from the Temple of Literature (popular tourist site).
I, of course, also checked out the Temple of Literature. This was built in the 11th century, and housed Vietnam's 1st university. I actually was more interested though in the "Hanoi Hilton", the prison where Senator (and U.S. Presidential hopeful) John McCain was held as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict (which is
Temple of Literature
Entrance to this 11th century temple which once housed Vietnam's first university.
called the American war here). Inside the museum there is a picture of John McCain getting medical attention during his time as a prisoner in the late 60's, and then of him visiting the prison again in 2000. The prison was built by the French in 1896 during their occupation, but used by the Vietnamese afterwards. Most of it has since been torn down, but a portion remains as a museum.
I'm not really sure what else I'm going to do here in Vietnam until my return to Bangkok on April 3. I'm winging it. I anticipate that most of my time will be in Hanoi, but I also expect to take a side trip to Halong Bay.
I've talked to a few other tourists (American girl at the airport, and 2 Australian guys in Hanoi), but mostly have explored on my own. We'll see what the future brings!
Look! There goes Dave!
Tot: 2.011s; Tpl: 0.017s; cc: 18; qc: 87; dbt: 0.017s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb