Vietnam: Day One

Well, today I flew from Bangkok to Hanoi, Vietnam, for a couple of days. Thank goodness a driver and English-speaking guide picked me up at the airport. Some poor English-speaking chap at baggage claim asked how to get to the city, which is an hour’s drive from the airport. I had no idea. I feel sorry for him!

Before we were even two blocks from the Hanoi International Airport we had to suddenly slam on brakes. A huge cow was crossing the main 4 lane road. The cow was then followed by an entire heard crossing from one rice patty to the other side! This place is a cacophony of extremes! Then, within another few blocks, we passed a small scooter with a huge live pig strapped across the seat behind the driver! I wished I had my camera, but I’m sure to get even more interesting shots.

The guide said that the traffic in Hanoi would be terrible. I’ve seen outrageous traffic before, Moscow being the worst. But, I think this place wins for the sheer terror of being run over. The land of the bicycle no more! There are literally thousands of small scooters everywhere and most have at least two people on them. Throngs of people everywhere, crowded beyond belief, and dusty/dirty, the city has about 5,000,000 people and almost every adult, according to the guide, has a scooter.

Oh, and completely the opposite of Bangkok*, people are constantly blowing their horns as if to say, “I’m over hear. Don’t run over me.” It’s literally astoundingly much worse than New York City. People on scooters or in cars will turn out in front of oncoming traffic or pedestrians will walk out and cross a six lane road of oncoming traffic as if they are invincible. No right of ways–just go.

I’m staying in a very nice French Colonial hotel in the heart of town, by the lake. After a brief rest, I’ll grab the camera and hit the streets. This will be a wild ride!

* My Bangkok guide said that, because of their religious beliefs, the people in Bangkok try to live more harmoniously and will rarely ever use their horn. (This reminded me of the Japanese culture, where I never heard a car horn.) The narrow Bangkok streets are far more crowded with cars than Hanoi, but I only heard 2 horn blows in Bangkok. Interestingly, it was my car service driver on the way to the airport when two cars almost turned in to my side of the vehicle on the interstate.

Click here for a list of all of the posts from my trip to Vietnam.