How to Stay Alive in Hanoi

Don’t go outside.

Seriously though, I couldn’t capture a photo and can’t find the words that would really give an apt description of the madness that is Hanoi traffic (and I know it will get worse in Ho Chi Minh City). This photo, though blurry, does give a bit of an idea of what it’s like:

  • The only rule in driving here seems to be that there are no rules. It’s a free-for-all.
  • Cars and bikes WILL go in any direction, regardless of traffic pattern.
  • Bikes go on the sidewalks. However, most of the time sidewalks are blocked by people selling goods or bikes propped up so you have to scurry along the road anyway.
  • No one looks when they merge. I think that’s what the constant horns are for – rather than an “Oy! You’re in the way!” it’s more of an “Oy! I’m coming in!”
  • Just when you think it can’t get any crazier, someone will try to cross the road carrying something enormous, i.e. a cart full of bananas or in this case, balloons. BALLOONS IN TRAFFIC.

At any rate, after a day of screaming each time I ran across, I think we figured out a bit of a system in that you just have to keep moving when you cross, and ignore the horns, incoming vehicles, and chaos. A couple of close calls, but we all survived in one piece!

Madness aside, Hanoi was an interesting place to spend a few days. The pollution is quite strong – my throat hurt almost instantly, and I did find that when I coughed/sneezed…it came out black. Sorry lungs (and sorry readers for the oversharing)! Apart from dodging traffic and coughing incessantly, I also visited:

  • The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
  • Hoi An, aka the “Hanoi Hilton”
  • Several fine restaurants, where I discovered just how delicious condensed milk is in coffee and ate cake (sidenote, perhaps I should have named this blog “Eating ‘Round the World”)
  • A traditional water puppet show

And just wandered about, discovering side streets and seeing a bit more of the character of the place. As I am still in Vietnam and it’s quite strict, I’ll keep mum on any thoughts I have about what I saw and just say a big thank you to Hanoi motorists for not plowing me down!

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4 thoughts on “How to Stay Alive in Hanoi

  1. Mmmmmm condensed milk in coffee?!! I’ll have to try that!

    I guess ‘looking both ways’ before crossing the road doesn’t help in Hanoi? You also need to look in front, behind, up, down, diagonally, and have eyes in the back of your head.

    Stay safe and have fun!

    1. It is delicious! Now I don’t want to wait for “fudge season” (aka Christmas) for condensed milk!

      I am quite addicted to it though.

  2. Hi Sam.You don’t know me but I work with your dad Derek. I have been reading your blog and have had many discussions with you dad about your travels. My son and his girlfriend also have a blog. They have been living in Amsterdam for 2 years and have done a lot of traveling in Europe. They also were in China in the fall. I think it is wonderful what you are doing and your dad is very proud of you. Travelling is a great learning experience and it will change you for ever. My husband and I have been to Europe several times since the kids moved there. We loved it and will continue to travel as long as our bodies hold out! Keep safe and have the time of your life.

    1. Thanks Nancy! I am having a great time and lots of amazing and some not-so-amazing experiences, but all part of the joys of travel!

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