It was close to twenty four hours door to door from Abbey Avenue to our hotel in Hanoi, made more bearable by Singapore Airlines Trekkie section on it’s in-flight entertainment system. However, i think it was one of those rare flights where I managed to get some kip, albeit with a stiff neck and some drool.
We arrived in Hanoi on a ‘quiet’ Sunday afternoon and after more sleep and a shower so hot you could make a cup of tea with it, we set off for something to eat. The Lonely Planet had set us a few potential eateries, all we had to do was find them.
The traffic had intensified from the afternoon and the pavements were full of traders and parked motorbikes, so weaving in and out of gutters and shopfronts was the only way to get around. Crossing the road was another matter, so I will take a quote from the ‘Insight Guide to Vietnam’ which says “As long as you don’t make any sudden or abrupt movements when crossing the roads, the traffic will flow around you like water. Be mindful but bold when crossing the streets and never dash across to the other side.” There is something very empowering about negotiating your first street with a calm exterior, and only you knowing what is really going on with your interior.
Further observations were that if a one way road is not going ‘your’ way, then make that one way, ‘your’ way, even use the pavement to help your cause. If there isn’t enough traffic on the other side of the road then drive on the other side, someone might as well make use of it. Traffic lights serve no other purpose than to lead westerners into a false sense of comfort which is quickly extinguished after a few backsteps to the kurbside. Beeping and tooting are constant, never in anger, just to let you know that there is a vehicle somewhere in the vicinity.
After two days, I’m still marvelling in the way that everyone is calm and at the same time acutely aware of buses, cars, reversing bikes, stuttering tourists and stray Dalmatians.
Something else that has to mentioned is the huge variety of items that can be carried on a motorbike. The first thing that caught my attention was a six foot yucca plant. Then eight 10 litre cans of paint, followed by a sleeping baby, a guy with three, yes three, teenage girls, the last one clenching on with everything she had to clench with. Twenty boxes of bananas, a bamboo ladder, a call girl and a wardrobe were amongst the rest of the highlights on show. No doubt, there will be more.
We were glad to see that a typhoon had passed through our route a week ago and happier still when we flew around cyclone Phalain on the way here without any ill effects. However, the jolly BBC weatherman informed us that typhoon Nira was heading to the Vietnamese coast. Thankfully it lost a lot of it’s energy when it hit Danong and will have subsided by the time we get to Hoi An. No one was killed, just hope it hasn’t all been washed away.