hustling Hanoi, an ordered disorderliness in the capital of Vietnam

Written by Donovan March 10, 2016 Category: Asia, Vietnam Tags: , , Comments
Ho Chi Minh mausoleum

For the first-time traveler to Vietnam, crossing the roads must have been a daunting task because of the sheer number of motorcycles which never seem to end. The trick is to take the first step, look forward and just cross like a boss. The motorcycles will try to avoid you along the way and this is how you are able to get to the other side. With luggage in tow as we alighted in the middle of a busy highway and tried to make our way to the Old quarters in Hanoi, this was how we learnt to cross the road by following the locals.

Hanoi is such a disordered city, from roadside stalls with short stools and tables to pushcarts overflowing with common wares. The roads are packed with squat buildings, motorcycles, people, food and goods, and the locals cook and eat on the sidewalks using portable stoves and charcoal burners. At street corners, kettles for tea boil on stoves surrounded with cardboard, presumably to keep the wind out. The traffic never seems to stop and staying in a small hotel along the busy road, we were awakened daily around 5am by the natural alarm of the hustle and bustle of the traffic or stallholders. The Vietnamese are such hardworking people, or maybe it is due to the sweltering heat during mid-day, so they try to be more productive during the cooler hours of the morning and evening.

night market filled with people
some elements of French are still present

Navigating the Old quarter is an exciting activity to do, walking through the maze of 36 streets known for their history and architecture. Each street is actually dedicated to a specific item of commerce, thus some orderliness can be found among the disarray. At night, the streets come alive with a night market and the traffic slowly dwindles, until some of the streets become quite dark and we felt unsafe exploring them after daylight hours.

finding tranquility in the middle of the city

Despite the chaos, there are peaceful spots around the city, such as Hoan Kiem lake in the middle of town. The lake is one of the major scenic spots in the city and serves as a focal point for its public life. Besides the lake, the Temple of Literature which is dedicated to Confucius is also a popular tourist attraction. A rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture, the complex honours Vietnam’s finest scholars and men of literary accomplishment. It is the site of Vietnam’s first university, established here in 1076, when entrance was only granted to those of noble birth.

the water puppet show
While the guidebooks said that Thang Long Water Puppet show is a must-visit, I felt that it was not worth it because the show is totally in Vietnamese and we could not decipher the story the whole time. The puppets were placed waist-deep in water behind a curtain and people manoeuvred them as they re-enacted folk tales or stories of Vietnamese farmers. Besides these attractions, trying the local food was also a hit, we had pho at least once every day because it is so cheap and good. The broth may be bland, but adding fish sauce would improve the taste. Also, banh mi and bun cha were other favourite Vietnamese dishes of mine. There is a nice cafe in the middle of Hoan Kiem lake, a relaxing place away from the traffic and a place to catch up with some friends.
the national dish pho
Thuy Ta Cafe
Address: 3 Lê Thái Tổ, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm Hàng Trống Hoàn Kiếm Hà Nội, Vietnam.

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