A dramatic contrast. That’s what struck us about Laos versus Vietnam. While Laos is relaxed and laidback, Vietnam seems to be a constant whirl of motion and energy.
We landed in the northern city of Hanoi and were welcomed by cooler temperatures than we’ve experienced in many, many months. Daytime highs only peaked at about 16 degrees centigrade. It was cloudy and drizzled occasionally.
The Lonely Planet travel guidebook calls Hanoi the “grand old dame of the Orient”. The book continues with, “Hanoi is the most graceful, atmospheric, and captivating capital city in the region. Here exotic old Asia blends seamlessly with the dynamic face of the continent”. As the same guidebook reads, Hanoi is “a mass of motorbikes [that] swarms through the tangled web of streets that is the Old Quarter, a cauldron of commerce for almost 1000 years and still the best place to check the pulse of this resurgent city”.
In the Old Quarter, we found a small hotel hosted by a friendly and super helpful staff. They nearly fell over themselves trying to give us a hand with anything possible. Having settled into our rooms, we headed out to see what Hanoi’s Old Quarter had to offer.
The busy streets are filled with motorbikes, hawkers, street vendors, and travellers from all over the world. We headed down to Hoan Kiem Lake about a kilometre from our hotel. To get there, however, meant crossing street after street, some larger than others, of non-stop traffic. To navigate your way across these streets, we have learned to simply walk at a steady pace and the river of motorbikes and cars simply flow around you. Unnerving to say the least.
Wandering the streets in the Old Quarter is a pleasure for one’s sense. From the wide variety of raw foods, to the savoury aromas of prepared foods, to shops of all kinds selling merchandise of all content and colour, meandering through these streets is quite the experience. The many, many, many, many, many (you get my drift?) clothing and shoe shops drew Mary-Anna, Emily-Ann, and Madeleine like moths to flame. This gave Aaron and I frequent opportunity to see a greater variety of the Old Quarter’s streets. I took all of the following pictures within a few blocks of our hotel.
The following pictures show what’s frequently referred to as “Hanoi Telecom”, the mindboggling web of telephone and electrical wires.
Hanoi’s Old Quarter proved to be captivating in its relentless energy and wonderfully colourful at every turn. A significant difference from our experience in Laos, it took a little time to become accustomed to the pace of old Hanoi. Once up to speed, we really loved the adventures of this ancient city.