De Adams Familie rond de wereld in 100 dagen: Thailand, Vietnam, Australiƫ en Nieuw Zeeland

Day 16 until 18: Apocalypse now (5 until 7 Dec 2008)

Noise. People. Noise. Scooters. More noise. Cars. Bikes. Buses. Salesman pursuing you continuously. Chased by Rickshaw bike drivers. A city with 6 million Viet who never seem to sleep (for god sake, the one child policy of China is not such a bad idea. The Adams family would comply with it anyhow). To draw a parallel with NY Manhattan is not unlogic, but aspecially the rush of scooters reminds me of the streets of Genua.

And a hotel with a room at the first floor facing the street side, with single glass panes.

After a full day being exposed to the biggest chaos (apart of Mumbai) in the streets of Hanoi I ever experienced, and looking forward to a sleepless night, we were longing a little bit back to the more serene Thailand. I could trust my mother to get around in the streets of Bangkok, but even China town was nothing against the violence of Hanoi.

The pictures will tell you part of the story, but after all they remain static: a moment in time . I will try to take you with me on a stroll through the streets of Hanoi.

The historical centre of Hanoi is a cluster of little streets where every street is dedicated to a certain type of crafts work, reflecting the medieval craft guilds. You walk through the streets with the cardboard and paper, sugar and candies, shoes, Christmas decorations, carpenters, computers, watches, wedding gifts, etcetera;

The shops are quite small - the regulations say that the width of a house cannot exceed 3 meters. So the exhibit the majority their goods on the walkway, and if not than people are cooking meals on the walkway or the streets, or the walkway is being used to park scooters, or used as little open air 'restaurants' where you can sit down and  eat a pho (noodle soup), sweet fried potato, or dog (which is a Viet specialty).

Among the street jungle you may notice sometimes the façade of an old wooden house, in bas shape though because the government has other priorities than rescuing their (non political)

National heritage. Luckily Unesco and some French private organisations are trying to save some of them.

The climax of the street jungle is of course the market, where all sensations are exponentially magnified. Of course you can buy everything in Vietnam. We bought a fake Deuter backpack for me since my current one was falling apart for less than 8 % of the price we paid for Steven Deuter on the internet.

We tried and learned how to cross a street in Vietnam: Just keep on going and try to perceive the traffic as one big organic habitat where you are part of. For the S-F amateurs amongst you: let you neural nanonics go back in the primary mode, and you are fine. Any form of panic or hesitation will be fatale in these streets (Oma and Moeke/Voke: August survived so far).

And a railway cuts its way through this chaos: 2 guards and a police office are required to close the crossing and keeping people of the tracks to allow the train to pass.

The people in Hanoi are except for those who want to tie up innocent tourists to sell any piece of trash, are much more reserved and distant than in Thailand - almost cold. But there our secret weapon (little August) did its duty again and opened up doors that would have been closed for us otherwise.

In the literature temple we met Duong Hong Chuyen, a nice recently graduated guy who told us that he came quite often there to try and approach tourists to practice his spoken English. Further we met in a little (but splendid) seafood street  restaurant Le Duc and his girlfriend (or wife) , who turned out to be a HVAC engineer. Why can't I escape these AIR guys! I do not mention the numerous contact we had in the streets, people wanting to know where we are from , how old our son is (they all think he is 2 years old, and are yelling baby, baby at him), touching his hand, head, cheek, etcetera. We have to put him daily in bad to get rid of the smell of the streets.

The Viet food is very nice and fine, though I am still suffering from withdrawal of the adorably spicy Thai food. In Hanoi you have roughly 2 classes of restaurant: The street restaurants where you see hardly any tourist, and fancy luxurious places. The latter though is quite affordable for Europeans: you can wine and dine for 30 €, where the same meal would cost you 5 times more in Belgium. The upper class restaurants offer as a rule Vietnamese and French cuisine, thanks to their prominent presence in the 18, 19th and the first halld of the 20th century.  Strange enough there are no real middle class restaurant, so we tried the first night a nice restaurant 'The seasons of Hanoi', where they served a very decent Margarita.

The next night however we risked a little seafood street restaurant, where you go to the water basin and indicate the kind and number of crabs, shrimps, or clams you want. A couple of minutes later you receive them on your table with some noodles and lemon/salt:chilli dips.

Absolutely gorgeous, I had the best (venus) clamps and shrimps in my life. In these kind of places people are not distant, and if they are comfortable enough with their knowledge of the English or French language they will try and start a conversation. And to overcome any communication  issues, we have the point it booklet (thank you Ann and Hans for let us borrow it) which is very useful in Vietnam so far. Pointing at a puddle on the streets resulted in a bottle of mineral water, and (of course) I know the Viet word for beer as from the very first day: bia, to make sure the supply chain would not hamper there.

By the way: non of us was sick already from the food , though my stomach protested again the strong Viet coffee!


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