When I think back to my holiday in Vietnam, I remember a land full of contrasts. Hanoi has a lot of different characteristics such as busy bustling specialized streets which sell single items or services, a peaceful Hoan Kiem Lake with its temples, pretty sesame trees, impressive ceramic road and historic French colonial buildings…
Hanoi people get up before dawn. The streets get noisy from 6am with motorbike engine and honks, public announcements and music from district’s speakers in the morning. From late afternoon until 11pm at night, the area around St Joseph’s Cathedral was crowded with young people, all sitting in the local cafes on pavements, drinking lemon ice tea, cracking sun-flower seeds and socialising with friends.
After spending 2 days in Hanoi, I flew to Ho Chi Minh City, a much more energetic city than Hanoi. It has a youthful spirit and a vibrant nightlife. The streets are wider and there are a larger number of tall office buildings than in Hanoi. In the cities, an image printed on picture-postcard of Vietnam, for example an old woman in a conical hat carrying fruits and local snacks on their shoulder, can be occasionally caught in daily life. However, that image will most likely be lost in a sea of motorbikes and cars. Traffic in both cities is chaotic and terrifying. Each motorbike carries not only people but also goods and poultry. On the day time, riders look like road warriors with helmets and scarves cover most of their face to keep out the hash sunlight. Every time crossing the road, I felt like committing suicide. Motorbikes and cars keep coming from every direction that it is impossible to see a clear straight path across the road. No one stops for pedestrians; they just go around you so our Eviva Tour guide gave me a “valuable” advice to survive: step slowly into the stream of the traffic, and don’t stop or make any sudden movements. If you are lucky you won’t be honked too much. It was a magic for me that I could escape from that chaos unscathed.
By Jeannie Averill Clement