My first reaction upon arriving in Hanoi was WHOA. The city is bustling, with vans and motorbikes zipping by constantly. We quickly learned that the old “look both ways before crossing the road” doesn’t apply in Vietnam. You’ll never cross the road. All you can really do is just go and not hesitate or you’ll disturb the flow.
Vietnemese people love to grab a bite on the side of the road at food carts. Each food cart has mini plastic tables and chairs where people sit in packed crowds to enjoy their meal. When the crowds become too big, people often spill into the street with their tables and chairs, which is illegal. It’s funny because the police will come down the road but they announce that they’re coming over a loudspeaker on top of the car. When people hear the police are coming, suddenly every table and chair vanishes! We went out on a saturday night in Hanoi only to find the clubs unoccupied and the streets overpopulated. Sidewalks should be called motorbike parking lots. About 90% of the time you can’t walk on the sidewalk because people are selling food and nick-nacks or there’s a sea of motorbikes in the way. Needless to say, coming from a chilled out Luang Prabang to a fast paced Hanoi was a little overwhelming. It also seemed so dirty, with leftover shells from seafood everywhere and interesting waves of indescribable smells.
We took off to Halong Bay for a few days, which was amazing-incredible-fabulous-extraordinary, etc (see previous post for pictures). Once we got back to Hanoi we started to enjoy it more; the longer we stayed the more it grew on us. We walked to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to see where Ho Chi Minh lays but we got there too late. Such a weird thing, to have a man’s dead body laying there for everyone to see… We ended up going to the Museum instead. Ho Chi Minh was the communist leader of Vietnam for many years. From what we understand, the Vietnemese people really like him. He lead them through the Vietnam War and seemed to really care about his people. I want to read a book about him and the Vietnam War though, to gain a better understanding. It shouldn’t be hard to find one in a second hand shop.
We left Hanoi via sleeper bus direct to Hoi An (on the coast in central Vietnam). It was 16 hours but it wasn’t so bad because it was at night. The driving skills people have in this country are insane. First of all, there are people on the FREEWAY with little stands selling bread and what not. Next there are the countless motorbikes zipping around with families of 5+ per bike (not joking). Then there are the buses that pass the vans when there’s a semi fast approaching. Passing on the shoulder is completely normal and driving into the chaos of a roundabout looks like a death trap but somehow everyone manages to survive.. We wonder why they even bother putting paint on the roads to be honest. Oddly, I don’t feel scared when in a vehicle, I just feel amused, knowing that this is the norm for them.
Anyways, we’ve been in Hoi An since Sunday and plan to leave tomorrow (Sunday). We really like it here. It’s an old city that used to be a major shipping port. It has a lot of charm and glows at night with pretty hanging lights everywhere you look. We’ve been walking around the city, eating a lot, and biking to the nearby beaches every day. It’s been a nice to place to hang out and slow down. I highly enjoy biking to the beaches! One day our hostel only had one bike so we had two of us on one bike for 4km. It was hilarious! What’s scarier than trying to cross the road? Trying to make a left turn on a bike in traffic with two people on it.
Okay we aren’t actually scared because we know it’s the flow and everyone will work their way around you. It’s more of a hilarious accomplishment:)
We have absolutely loved our time in Hoi An, but we are off the Nha Trang tomorrow night via sleeper bus. We are going to be in Vietnam for about another week. From Nha Trang, we will head to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) to see the War Remnants Museum which should be emotional. We plan to be in Cambodia by July.