There is no way to describe the mayhem that is Hanoi in words and honestly pictures don’t do it justice. I urge you to watch this video to get an understanding of what happens here on the streets. The video below was not made at rush hour. It was made in the middle of the afternoon on one of the hundreds of intersections here where there just isn’t a traffic light.
I have never, ever seen anything like this. People completely ignore traffic signals. Red lights literally mean nothing.
People say that “In Brazil red lights are optional” – not like Hanoi. In Hanoi a motorbike approaches a red light at full speed and twists through the cars coming in the other direction. It looks absolutely INSANE when you first see it.
They tell you “Just cross the street slowly and the bikes will avoid you”. Really there is nothing else that you can do or you will be stuck on one side of the street. The traffic ALWAYS goes.
The traffic in Hanoi isn’t the only thing that represents a total free-for-all though. Just about everything is a total free for all. Want to buy “North Face” clothing for 1/10th of the cost? Sure – it’s “Same-same just different”.
Sure, it “looks” like it’s a Vans store – and of course why wouldn’t you name your street corner pharmacy “CVS K-mart” – get double the brand recognition while having absolutely nothing to do with either brands – it’s perfect!!!!
Of course then there’s the game of “How much stuff can we actually fit on a scooter/motorcycle”?
And of course no one has won that game yet – it’s an ongoing competition where the actual weight of the stuff is still pushing several hundred pounds/kilos and if you are talking about family members/pets
– well – I think that someone may have maxed out at 4 kids and a dog plus mom and dad … and a refrigerator on the back (sadly I wasn’t there to get the photo but I’m still trying!).
Of course the traffic and the … ahem …. not so real …. brand named items aren’t the only things that are totally out of control off the charts and in direct opposition to anything that would be considered safe and sane in the US – here in Hanoi apparently electricity isn’t quite as dangerous or needed to be regulated in it’s implementation as it is at home. Witness here what just about every telephone pole looks like:
And just so you understand the context – that this picture isn’t somewhere out in the middle of an industrial park or separated from the general public by let’s say a 10 foot fence – here’s a shot of the same pole in context
At first I was totally freaked out – then I got to really like it. It definitely flies in the face of everything that we are told is needed by safety standards. This place isn’t “safety third” – it’s (pardon my French) “Fuck safety” – there’s no other way to say it. It’s a libertarian dream. For what it’s worth though – we are of course trying our best to be careful in it – the reality is that there are many, many accidents here. In fact Katie was in one on the way to the airport.
Before I wrap this one up I will mention another couple of things – the food is amazing – even if it comes from a place that wouldn’t get a “D” rating in a California health inspection ….
I’m not going to go deep into this one but when you come here and if you visit a couple of the right places – or if you just do a bit of history – these people certainly might be inclined to have a whole lot of distaste and distrust for us – and they absolutely do not (except maybe this little cutie seemed a little wary of me ) …..
So many of them are so incredibly nice, kind and interested in us and not just for our money (although it would be silly to think that they don’t want our money as well). Anyhow – I do want to write more about this place and the people here. It is
so interesting – one of the most intriguing and chaotic places we have been to yet – but for now I will just leave you with some more photos – enjoy!
And to wrap it up – just got back from my dinner and the vote is in – Hanoi is now my second favorite city yet (Istanbul was the first prior to that). Thriving, amazing, chaotic place. Good night Vietnam!