Our two nights in Hanoi bookended our trip
to Halong Bay, so we missed out on exploring the city the way we wished. Both
nights were spent exploring the old quarter, which reminded me of New Orleans
with the second floor balconies looking over the street. The only difference is
that there is some semblance of order to New Orleans unless it’s Mardi Gras,
and Hanoi is utter chaos.
Trying to figure our way around the city was a
nightmare because just about everything except walking is taking place on the
sidewalk, from motorcycle parking to clothing vendors, small time restaurants
and people having small barbecues right in the middle of the sidewalk! It seems
that if you live in the city and have no yard or balcony, you just set up your
barbecue on the sidewalk and cook away! As in Ho Chi Minh City, this meant that
we had to walk in the street, which made it hard to enjoy ourselves because we
were continually dodging motorcycles, bicycles and cars. Not knowing if we
might be wiped out any moment interfered with our ability to relax and
appreciate the city!
Yet, there is a charm to Hanoi that is all
its own! As in other parts of the country, we found the people to be delightful,
and by the time we left our hotel, we felt like we were leaving old friends. As
we headed off to Beijing and the last leg of our trip, three staff members came
out to say good-bye and help us load all our stuff into our taxi. With such
gracious treatment, it is easy to see why so many expats that we met love Hanoi
and never want to leave!