Sunday, October 23, 2011


i must first thank teddy and lisa for being fantastic hosts and tour guides in hanoi since if it were not for them, i would still be waiting to figure out how to cross the street!!!!  it is really difficult to explain the trauma of crossing the street in a major vietnamese city.  there are buses, cabs, cars and a zillion motorbikes teeming down the street.  and i think i saw 2 stoplights total.  in the whole country.  i am not kidding.  and one of those stoplights had a law enforcement officer next to it on a giant ladder, because apparently no one stops even at a light if they don't see a police officer!!!  so, you have to just pick a time to start across when there isn't a bus or car about to hit you.  but you almost always have to go when there is a motorbike about to hit you.  and they swerve around you, and you just keep walking across at a steady pace looking ahead so you don't see what is coming toward you.  you should never run.  it is only because you are walking steadily that everyone anticipates what you are doing and goes around you.  oh, and there are no lanes.  you just kind of drive where there is space.

as scary as it is to be a pedestrian, this works surprisingly well.  (although ian is the one who can dispute this.  he stayed longer than the rest of us in laos, and while back in hanoi before flying out he was in a cab that got its mirrors bashed by an angry motorbiker after an accident!)  there is a LOT of horn blowing.  constantly.  and there are different sorts of horns - a lot of them are "hey, i am right here" toots,  some of them seem to be "hey, hurry it up" toots and some seem to be "don't even think about pulling out into traffic" toots.  that is the other thing - there is really no such thing as looking before you pull out into traffic.

ok, i guess that is enough about the traffic.  honestly, i could do 3 whole entries about the traffic and overpopulation in vietnam.  but i won't.  just one more thing - and hopefully teddy and lisa will correct me if i am wrong - vietnam is about the size of germany and has a population of between 86 and 87 million people.  this information was from one of our halong bay guides.  here is an example of what the street looks like (and this was in a less busy section) -

we ate our first vietnamese meal across the street from teddy and lisa's apartment.  delicious traditional breakfast of chicken pho which we ate outside on teeny plastic stools at teeny tiny tables.  which was funny since teddy, lisa and ian are super tall.

we took a cab to teddy and lisa's school.
it was neat.  called student year abroad.  very small - all american kids spending the year in hanoi and doing a lot of travelling.  the teachers were all from the US also.
we ate lunch in a really interesting alley.  on the little stools again, of course.  i am so glad teddy and lisa took us to a street food place because i would have been afraid to get it without their recommendation.  there was a woman on the street cooking some kind of delicious rice patty or cake things in a wok.

we walked around a bit and saw some interesting sights.

 birds for sale!

it is amazing what people fit on bikes and motorbikes.  and it is also amazing how much food is sold on the street.  it is funny to see the english phrases on some of the t-shirts for sale.  we were in an alley w/a lot of clothes for sale and one t-shirt said "what happened to you?" and another "stop loving you".  i didn't buy either one.

next time:  rest of hanoi day 1 - temple of literature

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