Hanoi’s Old Quarters are like two sides of a coin at different times: both bustling, both full of life, but subtlely different. At night, the fluorescent white lights are turned on along with the noisy hum of motorcycles and small generators; the smells of cooking and smoke waft into the air while men and women stroll through the streets with sleeves rolled up in the hot summer air.
In the day, the makeshift clothing racks disappear, along with the tiny stools taking up the walkways where people snacked on peanuts and pho the night before. They are replaced instead by peddlers on bicycles, their tanned faces shaded by pointy leaf hats. Some spread their goods on the ground – kilos of fresh fruits and vegetables – while chatting happily with their neighbours.
We did the touristy thing and took a trishaw ride around the streets to soak up the sights and sounds. Remember to tip your driver at the end of the ride to avoid any unpleasantness. Also to appreciate their effort – it’s not easy peddling people around in the hot sun. What is easy though, is getting lost, especially if you’re not with a guide, as the Old Quarters are made up of 36 streets, all linked together to form a massive maze-like area.
Bikes everywhere. Cars are fairly uncommon, so there are only a few slots reserved for them on the street. No massive multi-storey car parks like in Malaysia.
‘Window shops’ are so tiny there is barely space for the owner to sit in, and customers usually request what they want over the counter instead of browsing for goods inside.
Peddlers selling fresh produce by the road.
An old brick archway.
The Internet shop was so narrow! I think it measured less than five feet across and it had two rows of computers packed inside. See how close the people are sitting, back-to-back against each other? You can’t afford to be fat in Vietnam. Fun fact: Vietnam has the lowest rates of obesity in Southeast Asia.
Speaking of fat… lunch. Crab meat soup, salad and deep fried egg plant with sweet chilli sauce.
Grilled chicken chop with glutinous rice cakes.
And with that, we come to an end of our visit to Hanoi. It has been a fascinating place with both natural and historical attractions, worth a visit if you’re ever in South East Asia. Til next post!