You may have noticed that I’m not so good at keeping up with this whole blog thing so far. My vision was to provide regular updates on my travels, but my mind has been so involved in getting to know this strange and beautiful new world. I hope that the following information will give you a little insight into what has been going on in my head…
When I arrived in Hanoi 5 days ago, everything felt strangely familiar. I felt like I was in a part of San Francisco, and that Santa Cruz was just an hour or so drive away. This was odd to me, because when I have traveled in Central America, everything usually feels very third world.
That is not to say that Hanoi wasn’t insane and overwhelming when I first arrived. The city is gushing with sensory overload; definitely a change of pace from my hippy town of Santa Cruz. The reason for this over stimulating atmosphere is rooted in the vehicles. Hanoi has the 2nd most motor bikes in the world (Hong Kong is rated #1). Not only does this make for unbelievable traffic, but also for a major adrenaline rush for pedestrians.
Imagine every street in the city filled to the brim with cars, bicycles, and, mostly, motor bikes. Imagine that these vehicles do not follow any sort of traditional traffic laws except for a system of their own. Now, imagine walking across the street.
Crossing the street is undeniably the most interesting aspect of Hanoi for tourists. Instead of waiting for vehicles to stop for you to cross, you must slowly walk out into oncoming traffic and carefully dodge vehicles to make your way across the road. The locals have adopted sly hand signals for communicating with oncoming traffic, but tourists must cross with confidence and pray they don’t get hit.
Despite the intimidating streets, Hanoi caters well to first world tourists, and I believe that most tourists who visit Hanoi would feel safe and comfortable. In fact, from what I have seen of this country thus far, Vietnam is a comfortable place for visitors who stick to the guide book destinations. I am quite sure this is why Hanoi felt so familiar when I stepped off the plane. However, like most tourist attractions, I am slowly finding out that the heart of Vietnam makes for a bizzare tale.
As a newcomer, the day-to-day cultural norms are anomalous to me, and I am highly entertained. I truly want to describe every bizarre moment that I have encountered thus far, but this post would drag on for too long, and I have to catch a bus. For now, I am going to tease you and leave you with some touristy photos from Hanoi. Stories will come later, I pinky promise.