In the previous post, Hanoi was gazed out as a land of old-world Asian charm with 36 ancient streets shading old French colonial-style villas, this post will draw a different picture of Hanoi through the lens of entertainment on traffic, another unique side of Hanoi.
“While visitors to London might discuss the weather and tourists in Paris debate restaurant choices, here in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, it is hard to escape the elemental conversation about Hanoi’s traffic”.
As the country’s center of economy, politics, culture and society, the capitalist fervor after more than a decade has transformed Hanoi’s once quiet, tree-lined boulevards and side streets into roaring rivers of rubber and steel. The roads are mega-loaded with scooters, cars, bicycles, cyclos, buses, and even some three-wheelers, and they honk every two seconds. It’s not exaggerate to compare Hanoi’s traffic is like “a swarm of bees”, the bikes approach and weave around you as you cross the street.
Crossing the street in Hanoi is really an art. When you visit Hanoi and check in a hotel at The Old Quarter, you will be handed a tip sheet by the receptionist titled “How to cross roads” as follows:
“Look left, then right, then left again;
Look for the slightest break;
Start inching your way out;
As you are walking, motorbike drivers will anticipate your forward motion;
It’s important not to stop, the drivers will avoid you;
If you stop, you may cause an accident;
Keep going, you are nearly there.”
Let’s watch a video with vivid images of crossing the road experiences:
The Vietnamese live in their motorcycles, they use them for transport, carrying everything on them: shopping, food deliveries, pieces of furniture. Some of the loads are scary. But transporting goods is the least of it. They are meeting places for friends and family vehicles. It is not unusual to see Dad driving with a toddler between his knees holding on to the handle bars, and Mum sitting behind with another infant holding on to her back.
In Hanoi, the traffic never stops. It flows like water, with small tributaries issuing into larger streams, forming noisy but gently moving rivers around the quietness of Hanoi’s central lake of real water. The noise of horns is continuous. There are few traffic signs and no visible speed limits. People do not bother with signals, even hand signals. The traffic becomes worse during rush hour when everyone is in a hurry attemppting to get to office or go home after work. However, the traffic forms a self-organizing system. It works brilliantly.
“There is definitely something strangely addictive about the traffic experience in Hanoi for foreigners. Whether it’s good or bad, the traffic itself represents the most vivid images and experiences of living in Hanoi, capturing a truly familiar feature of this city.”