Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, one of the most ancient capitals in the world, and one of my favourite cities that I visited on my travels. I was there four times in total and every time I was there, I felt like I was discovering it again for the first time. I would still love to go back. This is Hanoi in pictures.
Hanoi is the city of scooters and it is these scooters and the crazy traffic which have stuck in my mind the most. The air is fraught with the constant cacophonous din of scooter and car horns. The rule here is: that the more you beep, the safer you are. As a pedestrian, you are constantly in harms way as there isn’t much of a pavement, but you get used to it. Sometimes, you even become part of the traffic in very narrow streets, where you are walking single-file behind a moped and there are others following you. Seeing people driving in the opposite direction to the traffic is not uncommon and busy cross roads do not have traffic lights, the method seems to be to just put your foot down on the accelerator, beep, and hope for the best.
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It is a buzzing metropolis which feels big and small at the same time and everyone lives so close in this city with balconies precariously stacked on top of one another. It borders on claustrophobic at times. The labyrinthine streets are impossible to navigate, so it’s best to just wander without purpose as you cannot get lost if you do not know where you are going. You will soon realise that every street seems to have a theme. There is what we called Christmas Street, Lighting Street, Pots and Pans Street, Mannequin Street. Christmas Street was full of tinsel and Santa hats, Lighting Street constantly emitted a hot and blinding white light – even in daylight and Mannequin Street was populated by naked plastic bodies with dead and soulless eyes. It was pretty bizarre and I have never been anywhere quite like it.
Everyday life takes place on the streets; men have close shaves at the side of the road, people sit on low stools eating Phở, ladies wearing the nón lá conical hats sell oranges, mangoes and flowers from their bicycles.