24.10.2004 - 25.10.2004
In Laos the locals very endearing called me Tuk Tuk. I don't know why but every time I was lost, walking briskly down the road or merely looking like I was contemplating making a move people shouted "Hello Tuk Tuk". For some reason the folks around these parts like to call me motorbike, to which I retort "nice to meet you, please just call me BE WARNED I DRIVE A HARD BARGAIN".
I arrived in Hanoi from Larang Prabang in Laos only yesterday evening. The flight took only an easy hour. The shared mini bus from the airport to my hotel in the old town took a grueling, stuffy hour and a half my first impression was that Hanoi is just a vast ocean of traffic. Down every main road, every side street is a non stop stream of traffic, 24/7. The humble pedestrian plays nervous second fiddle to the rivers of carbon monoxide that flood every alley way. Even when the green man flashes it appears optional that the traffic lets you pass. Motorbikes are the dominant vehicle, with even the pavements being largely occupied by parked bikes. Hence motorbike taxi drivers hassling every 5 minutes. What a stark contrast from the tranquility of Labang Prabang. It is like comparing say Ambleside in the Lake District to 10 Birminghams. This really is modern Asia going full throttle with commerce and activity.
The only respite from the chaos is the lake (complete with its little temple) in the old town. Legend has it in Hoan Kiem lake a mythical giant turtle swallowed an emperors sword whilst boating in the lake. Why doesn't it jump out and devour the traffic? I am sure that the city will slowly grow on me as gradually as the stalagmites growing in a cave.
The city is quite atmospheric especially at nights with all the shops springing to life, the cafes and restaurants etc. The food so far (only had 3 meals)was excellent. The jelly fish was a bit plasticy though. This afternoon I had some nice, strong coffee called weasel coffee. A Kiwi in the cafe suggested that it could indeed be weasel pooh, i.e. fed on merely coffee beans and their bowels do the filtering. I think I'll have tea tomorrow come to think of it.
I saw a water puppet show today. It is amazing how they got the little puppets to do back stroke and front crawl in a mock lake whilst being persued by a puppet dragon. All this was accompanied by live Vietnamese folk music.
Anyway tomorrow evening (Monday 26th)am escaping from Hanoi for a week in the mountains surrounding Sapa and then immediately afterwards the seas around Halong bay.