Arriving at Hanoi Airport was orderly, there wasn’t an overly exuberant porter of taxi driver in sight. It certainly wasn’t what I expected, nor was the drive into Hanoi city, the traffic wasn’t chaotic or even particularly busy, we drove over a very modern, spectacular bridge on the way in. Arriving in the Old Quarter, in the centre of Hanoi was however a different story, the streets are narrow and congested, the equally narrow buildings are old and the power lines are everywhere. Foot paths are parking lots for motorbikes and seating area’s for the street food vendors, it’s a perfect place to find a cafe and people watch.
I have spent the day being a tourist, I have walked everywhere, it’s so safe, the people are lovely and the street vendors are not so persistent. I visited The Hanoi Hilton, a prison made famous by the movie of the same name, it still has its guillotine, which I think was put to good use by the French.
I also went to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, now that was interesting, not because of the entombed Ho Chi Minh but because of the volume of Vietnamese that make the solemn procession to pay their respects. Ho Chi Minh was a Communist revolutionary leader who led the country to independence from the French, he died in 1969 and he is still worshipped to this day. There was a phenomenal amount of people, the queue was at least 1km long, just to walk past the body of Ho Chi Minh for a few seconds, its apparently like it everyday.
Crossing the road here is an art form, it requires nerves of steel and an air of complete confidence, once you have committed to a road crossing, don’t stop! “He who hesitates is lost” or run over. The endless sea of traffic will anticipate your next move as long as you maintain a steady, consistent pace across the road, if you falter they will get confused. Otherwise, both hands up in a “halt” gesture, because you can never really be too sure which direction the traffic is going to come from, even on a one way street. When it’s really, really busy just find a local who is crossing the street and mirror them, that was fun!
Anyway, my bike is assembled, it was an interesting exercise in my room that is the size of a matchbox! And thank goodness for Youtube tutorials on how to put a back wheel on, the derailer was causing me a few issues, I will just add bicycle mechanic to my list of skills. I think my neighbours must have wondered what on earth I was doing in my room when I was pumping up the tyres…