Edit Blog Post
Published: September 12th 2012
This is what I learnt whilst walking around Hanoi in a downpour. When it rains here it really can rain, a bit like the UK but it's still humid and warm. I was determind that I would continue with my sightseeing, slipping about here and there in my soggy flip flops. I had helpfully left my umbrella at home. Initially I thought, it's ok, I'm British, I can handle this. Then I relented and bought one. I drew the line at an ankle length emergency poncho.
Previous to the downpour I had been to the Ho Chi Minh museum. Unfortunately the mausoleum, where you are able to pay your respects to his embalmed body, was closed. Every year ''Uncle Ho'', who died in 1969, goes on a 3 month trip to Russia for a bit of maintenance. Can't imagine what that involves- probably the orifices of a man who's been dead 43 years. Grim.
Instead I was able to visit the Ho Chi Minh museum, which had some interesting photos of Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam's recent past as well as an interesting art exhibition displaying the pre-revolution wealth of the ''imperial feudalists'' versus the plight of the
Another part of the city I visited was the Old Quarter of Hanoi, which has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. This is a very busy part of town. Each street has shop after shop selling the same thing. So one street might only sell shoes, another only herbs and spices, a third might only sell toys. I'm still not sure how you decide which of these identical shops you will do your shopping at. The best tip for the Old Quarter is to keep your eyes up. The top halves of the buildings show a variety of different architectural styles and buildings in different states of disrepair or rennovation. I spent a happy 3 hours wandering around the Old Quarter. The only problem with wandering around the Old Quarter with your eyes aimed at the skies is that your focus is then removed from the biggest challenge in the Old Quarter: dodging traffic.
And this brings me to my favourite topic about Hanoi: motorbikes and mopeds. The motorbike is the vehicle of choice in Hanoi and one of the easiest ways to get about. The only problem for the inexperienced tourist is that
there are swarms of them, everywhere. Crossing a road in Hanoi is a challenge in itself. Only a fool would expect anyone to stop at a pedestrian crossing or even give show the green man some courtesy. The only way to cross a road in Hanoi is to simply walk out in to the road, waving your arm up and down ( I'm not convinced by that bit) and hope that everything dodges you; which they miraculously do. Initially it feels like you've lost all appreciation for the value of your own life but once you get used to it you find yourself stepping out in to the road all of the time. The traffic of Hanoi could be described as organised chaos. It's terrifying but somehow it works.
I had my own first experience of being on a motorbike with my host, Roz. How did I feel about going round Hanoi on the back of a motorbike? Fine I lied (sorry Roz). It was decided that before hitting the madness of the city streets we would have a drive around Roz and Brian's local area to get used to it. Roz pushes the bike out in the main street and, as she hasn't used the bike for a while, has to kick start it. And kick start and kick start and a good 5 minutes later we were still outside the house, me stood on the pavement looking special in my helmet. Then Roz stood in dog poo, which made the task even more difficult because then her foot kept slipping off the pedal and in the process of all this kick starting the dog poo started to travel along her foot and up the inside of her leg. Eventually the bike started and we went off for a little drive around the local streets. Once I'd got over my initial anxieties I actually enjoyed the ride, though I was convinced that I was going to knock knees with people travelling in the opposite direction and it took me a few days to stop flinching everytime I thought there was going to be a kneecap-knocking incident- as if that's the worst thing that can happen on a bike!
The next day we headed in to Hanoi. I soon learnt that the best thing was just not to look. Then, as we came to our first busy main road and intersection, with a bus coming up behinds us, Roz decides that this is the perfect time to tell me " just after we moved here a Belgian chef got knocked off his bike by a bus and had his head run over". Great! Excellent timing there Roz.
I'm quite enjoying my sample of expat living so far. I currently live in a 5 story house with a cook and a cleaner and I've had cocktails at one of Hanoi's most luxurious hotels, previously host to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. It's going to be a short sharp shock back to the world of backpacker hostels and instant noodles!
Tot: 2.229s; Tpl: 0.047s; cc: 8; qc: 48; dbt: 0.0417s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb