Hanoi City – Sightseeing, Traffic & Transportation in the capital

When I’m not at work, working on my post grad or at the gym, Dave and I have spent a great deal of time exploring Hanoi and the surrounding area. Unfortunately, I’ve been slacking a little with photos because I’ve just generally been on my phone less… But I should have enough to give you an idea of what Hanoi is like. So here we go!!

One of our favorite spots in Hanoi so far. Colonel Coffee in Yen Fu, where our first apartment was located.

Traffic

It’s impossible to describe what it’s like living in Hanoi without discussing the traffic. There is no metro in this city of 8 million people, and buses are slow. Of course, it’s too expensive to buy a car (and where would we even park it?) so we get around like everyone else: on motorbike.

This is Dave on my Honda Vision, the day we picked it up. He has a similar one that’s blue. They’re great, reliable bikes that are strong enough to get me over overpasses but not so big that I feel like I don’t have control.

It’s important to mask up if you’re cruising around Hanoi on motorbike. The traffic pollution is horrendous some days and even just driving 20 minutes without a mask on during rush hour will leave you with a headache and scratchy throat. I don’t even want to think about the long term affects we’d face if we didn’t buy high quality masks.

I happened to forget my good mask that day (the same one Dave is wearing). I still went and picked up a paper mask. It’s far better than nothing!!

The driving in Vietnam is also…wild. People don’t really look before changing lanes and it’s bumper to bumper traffic a lot of the time. We’ve helped more than one tourist cross the road in old town. Traffic won’t really stop for you. You just go ahead and walk into it with intent and the bikes and cars will go around you. People often ignore traffic lights and this leads to giant traffic jams, which makes getting home from work every day an ordeal (I’m just happy that only 1 half of my commute is during rush hour).

Typical rush hour traffic

But…you dress for it, and you prepare your route ahead of time with traffic jams in mind… and you do get places.

Having a sense of humor about it helps…

My favorite part of traffic in Hanoi is seeing all the crazy things people manage to pile onto their motorbikes. EVERYTHING is done by motorbike here, so we’ve seen mattresses, refrigerators, ladders and massive piles of styrofoam, all being transported on Hondas.

I’m really not kidding when I say that everything gets transported by bike. We saw this guy loading up his bike on furniture street (there’s a street for everything in Hanoi… It’s awesome)
This is a motorbike that’s been altered to have a bit of a truck bed. And yes… That’s all styrofoam being transported on it.

Tet, or Lunar New Year has added another list of ridiculous things we’ve seen transported. For the last month, we’ve been seeing countless trees and bushes being driven around on the back of Honda’s. It’s a beautiful tradition for families to get these trees for the holiday. And it has made for a few laughs for us. We spotted all these drivers in 1 short trip into old Town last weekend:

And of course, I’ll never forget the time we saw 2 giant VERY breakable vases being transported across the city.

Sight Seeing

Hanoi’s Old Quarter

The Hanoi Old Quarter is world famous. You can go down there any night of the week and there are full restaurants, full bars, and every imaginable souvenir for sale.

I did not deal with it very well when we accidently walked down bar Street my first week here. It was anxiety attack central!

But there’s more to the old quarter than just bars and shops. Hoan Kiem Lake is my favorite part of Old Town, and we’ve spent many hours walking around this beautiful body of water.

There are also occasionally performances in old quarter and a pretty impressive craft street (like I said…a street for everything). Whatever you find interesting…Hanoi Old Quarter is a must-see for anyone who visits the city.

They were playing Despacito… I’m not kidding

There are lots of little things to see around Hanoi outside of old quarter as well. We haven’t even come close to seeing them all yet, but here are a few we’ve managed so far.

The Long Bien Bridge

This bridge is old and it’s seen a lot. It was the first steel bridge to be build across the Red River, and it was opened to the public in 1902. It was built during Hanoi’s French colonial period, and for a while, it was the 2nd longest bridge in the world (the only bridge longer than this beauty was the Brooklyn bridge in New York).

I couldn’t get a shot this good from my motorbike, so this one is from https://vinwonders.com/en/news/long-bien-bridge-the-witness-to-many-historical-milestones-of-hanoi/

The bridge connects 2 large districts of Hanoi, and it’s rather quirky. There is a train track in the middle and bike/motorbike lanes on either side of the track (cars use a separate bridge). The thing is… The traffic goes the opposite way on the bridge. Apparently, there were big problems with traffic jams going into the bridge so the government decided to switch the directions to help with the problem. I’m not really sure if it helped (and some people drive down it in whatever direction they feel like driving…) But it’s an interesting quirk regardless of the reason.

Hanoi’s Mosaic Mural

One thing I find very charming about Hanoi is the 6.5km mosaic mural that runs along the Red River dike.

One of the mosaic’s many images

Every time we drive along this stretch of road (and we do it often), I see something new. Certain sections were designed by students, others depict cultural elements of Vietnam. Foreign artists from France, The UK, Chile, Russia and South Korea also designed sections (other countries too!) And it’s just a really cool piece of art.

It was built to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of Hanoi city, and it holds the Guiness record for the longest mosaic in the world… And I drive by it almost every week.

There’s so much more to write about but I’ll leave it here for today.

After a long, wet drive, we arrived in Hue today.

My next couple of posts will be about some really cool day and weekend trips we’ve taken since arriving in Hanoi! Stay tuned!

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