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Good Morning, Vietnam!

Finding our way in Hectic, Motorbike-Haven, Hanoi

overcast 28 °C

If there are more TATA trucks and tuk-tuks than Indians, then there are more motorbikes in Hanoi than there are people (and there are about three million of the latter). As we head into Vietnam's capital to find our hotel, we're struck with how clean the streets are relative to India, and then with the sheer volume of motorbikes weaving their way around cars and dodging pedestrians.

A completely, frighteningly typical scene in the Old Quarter. Pavements are filled with street vendors and parked motorcycles, which means that pedestrians have to compete for space in the road itself.

The Invisible Man is alive and well in Hanoi! Many Vietnamese bike-riders protect their lungs - and/or their skin - with scarves, hats and sun-glasses.

Accidents inevitably happen. This is one of the local bike hospitals.

We quickly fall in love with Hanoi. Our first interactions with Vietnamese are friendly and genuinely warm, and we fight off our fatigue to explore the Old Quarter immediately after our arrival. But as soon as we walk out of the hotel, we have about three near-death experiences with motorbikes, and quickly decide that a cycle is the way to find our bearings.

Lloyd after our hour-long cyclo ride. Note the cyclist is behind the passengers, so you travel feet first. Half way through our tour, our driver stopped for a drink and a smoke out of a very long and wide tube! Answers on a postcard, please....

On Sunday, we brave the motorbikes again for a fuller day of exploration, starting with a three hour long walking tour of the Old Quarter. If the locals aren't riding motorbikes, they're enjoying street food from literally hundreds of vendors. While the sights and smells are excrutiatingly tempting, we have a singular lunch goal in mind, and head to a highly recommended pizzeria for the best pizza we've had since we left the US. Hey, we're in Vietnam for almost a month so we have plenty of time to sample the local cuisine. We can't resist the local sugar cane drink, however, prepared by crushing sugar cane and then mixing the result with freshly squeezed lime juice and crushed ice.

Two piccies: a happy Lloyd with his sugarcane drink, and the happiest mannequin we've ever seen. You figure out which is which!

After lunch, we opt for the 'world-renowned' water puppet show. Rather than descending from above, the puppets rise from the water, controlled by puppeteers more than knee deep in water and concealed by a bamboo screen. While the show was entirely in Vietnamese (incicentally for an entirely western audience), we enjoyed the puppets' playfulness and the humour displayed. Hardly a "must-see" in our opinion, but a pleasant enough way to spend an afternoon and allow the stomachs to adjust to the shock of food in any volume.

Puppets with a sense of humour, in any language!

One tip if you do go to the puppet theatre - don't be sold the "first class" seats over the "second class". The theatre also sells photo tickets, so wherever you sit, you WILL have some inconsiderate tourist in front of you sticking their camera in the air and taking an improbably long time to snap a shot. We'd have preferred to be at the very back of the theatre - firmly in second class - where we could have stood up to get the odd shot or two.

Posted by jacquiedro 19:46 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world

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