I have one word for Hanoi...CHAOS. Oh my god it's nuts. There are 3 million mopeds and I think they're all on the road at once. The rules on of the road are as follows...There are no rules. Small yields to big, free for all at junctions, red lights mean you can stop if you like, beep your horn constantly to make your presence felt. Crossing the road is a game of chicken. It works like this. As a pedestrian, it's not my responsibility to find a suitable gap in which to cross the road, after all there are no gaps. Instead It's the traffic on the roads' responsibility to avoid me. I just step out and walk. It's a bit daunting at first, but it seems to work. You have to keep a constant, steady pace so the drivers know you're intentions, then they just work around you. Madness!!!
Once we'd mastered the roads it was time to take in what was going on around us. The streets are lined with beautiful French colonial architecture, there are rows of shops all selling the same thing. One street is entirely full of shoe shops, another sunglasses, another cake tins. The pavements are for the mopeds to park so walking is on the sides of the roads. Women walk the streets wearing conical hats and carrying ballancing baskets across their shoulders selling fruit and veg, just like the picures. There are people on old fashioned bicycles or cyclos to carry tourists. There is non stop hustle and bustle. It's like no place i've ever been before. It's like the town itself has moved on but the people haven't. It's awesome.
One of the highlights was a trip to the traditional water puppet theatre. It was like sitting in an ordinary theatre, but instead of a stage there was a pool of water at the front. There was a live traditional music band accompanying the puppets and narrating the story. The puppets emerged from the water. They were so odd, at first we thought we'd had too many local beers. Then we realised, no, they really were that odd. There were fire breathing dragons, fishermen, golden turtles, bird things....But it was really good and again, like nothing i've ever seen before.
I loved Hanoi, it has so much character and life. Definately not the place for a relaxing break though and i'm not sure the ringing in my ears from the constant beeping will ever fade!!