(Day 341 to 343)
28.10.2010 - 30.10.2010 34 °C
Hanoi isn’t nearly as chaotic as Saigon, but it has made us think of our experience in both cities. Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City) is a younger, larger city but whilst Hanoi is quainter with smaller streets, don’t be fooled! You still end up with frayed nerves after crossing 3 roads! Its not just the traffic: it’s the CONSTANT hooting, spitting, shouting..it slowly eats at you until you want to scream (back). You’d think that’s the norm for cities wouldn’t you? Well this place makes London seem like a health spa retreat.
Martin found this article on the internet and we thought it was quite funny as so true:
Traffic and Pedestrians, Rules and Tips
Stop lights are near useless; I think they may have been installed as props for a recent government summit, their optional at best. It’s never a good idea to cross the street, but if you must, there are four simple rules you may want to consider:
Green light: Do you really want to risk it?
Flashing green light: no way man
Red light: Ha Ha, you having a laugh
Use locals as shields and use a lateral-movement scooter dodging techniques.
Common motorbike configurations we’ve seen:
Woman flipping her clamshell phone for a little chat while gearing up to full speed through an intersection
Family Affair. Husband steering motorbike, 6 month-old baby in lap, wife on back with 3 year-old daughter on lap; large kitchen appliance and shopping bags strapped on the rear.
Anyways, we still had a good time here. We enjoyed the city in little bits, first in between Sapa / Ha Long Bay then as 2 consecutive days before we left Vietnam. They have a lovely little lake right below the Old Quarters (where we were staying) which truly is a nice, peaceful surprise in a city so crazy. It was slightly hazy when we were there but we still enjoyed some calm.
We also explored the markets as usual, discovering some tiny streets along the way, bought some strong Vietnamese coffee and a few souvenirs to bring home.
Every morning we were woken up at 6h30 by blaring loudspeakers, with talking that seemed would go on for hours. Martin ended up asking our hotel what it was and we found out that they were reading the news to the city as part of an old tradition during the war! During the Vietnam War, the loudspeakers aired crucial warnings about bombing raids, this being the easiest way to contact a maximum amount of people. Today, they broadcast an odd mix of local news, bureaucratic trivia, communist ideology and patriotic songs. For a country impoverished by the rigors of war, the loudspeakers were also a welcome source of encouragement, entertainment and even inspiration.
Full of surprises, huh? Well I’ve kept the best for last. The myth of dog-eating. Well it aint no myth! The locals don’t exactly eat it like it was chicken or beef, but they still do. Traditionally, they will go out for a meal of dog-eating at the end of the lunar month, this brings good luck.. (And apparently acts as an aphrodisiac for men!). These restaurants are found a few kilometres outside of the city, so with our new French buddies Sonia and Sebastien (from Ha Long Bay), we decided to go and do some exploring. We found one after walking for a fair bit, and sat down in one of the “Thit Cho” (dog meat) restaurants. Sebastien not only tried it but ate the whole plate, describing it as a mix between beef and chicken, whilst we all stared at him in awe whilst sipping at our cokes! Kiwi and Muppsy, our beloved childhood doggies (R.I.P) would be howling in their graves..
That night we flew out of chaos and into Hong Kong.