Hanoi is a city constantly on the move.
The streets, built for bicycles, are overrun by hundreds of scooters and the occasional car. Traffic is very democratic: there is strength in numbers. Unless cops are standing at the corner, red lights are optional and whoever has the largest group has the right of way, resulting in a seemingly impossible gridlock that somehow keeps flowing to the tune of incessant honking. As a pedestrian, the only way to get anywhere is to calmly walk wherever you want to go without stopping; the motorcycles part around you and continue on their way. The motion of the city is supported by the buzz of the sweet, strong Vietnamese coffee available at every second storefront.
The manfriend and I made the mistake of pausing on a street corner to find our bearings and take some photos. Within minutes, a street peddler had D’s shoe off to “fix” the sole while a fruit lady had put her baskets over my shoulder and her hat on my head for a photo op. We escaped 10 minutes later having overpaid for two glued and stitched up shoes and a bag full of pineapple we never wanted in the first place.
Hanoi in the early morning is my favourite. The honking never stops altogether but at sunrise it does seem slightly quieter; the doughnut peddlers at every corner are eating their own breakfasts and aren’t yet as pushy as they will become in a few hours. Around Ho Hoan Kiem Lake, senior citizens gather for tai chi, salsa dancing, meditation, karaoke, and shoulder massages.
Most of our time in Hanoi was spent wandering aimlessly and stopping for coffee after coffee to people-watch. Our hotspots:
La Beaute de Hanoi Hotel, where we stayed in the Old Quarter
Friz Coffee, for Vietnamese egg coffee (espresso topped with raw meringue. Way better than it sounds)
Bottoms Up Bar, for evening traffic watching from the roof
Bun Bo Nam Bo, where they only serve one dish: a Vietnamese version of pad thai