The Streets of Old Hanoi

Picture of vendor.
Feb 28 - Mar 2, 2015
Days 226 - 228

At last we arrived in Hanoi. This was to be Katie's final destination in Vietnam, and the beginning of my solo overland trip to Beijing. We stayed in the Old Quarter, a small section in the middle of the city. The Lonely Planet calls traffic in the Old Quarter “oppressive,” and I couldn't agree more. Simply walking across the street required absolute concentration and patience to avoid the swarms of motorcycles. But, as in every other Vietnamese city we had visited, Hanoi delighted the senses.

Picture of crabs.

Lunch is served.

Picture of bicycle walker.
Picture of people.

Getting ready for duck.

Picture of woman.

The justice.

Picture of man.

The Godfather.

Picture of cleaner.

Keeping the streets clean.

Picture of motorcycle.

One of a million motorcycles in Hanoi.

Picture of cigaretts.

The Marlboro Woman.

Picture of fruit.

Delicious fruits and coffee.

Picture of saleswoman.

A beautiful arrangement.

Picture of man.

A happy man.

At one point, I found a sidewalk that the motorcycles had yet to commandeer. I thanked my lucky stars and skipped along the wide pedestrian boulevard. But within a few minutes, I was stopped dead in my tracks. By an intense game of badminton.

Picture of badminton.

They take badminton seriously here.

After spending two days in Hanoi, Katie's vacation was over. She, and some of her coworkers, shared a cab to the airport at 4:45am. Halfway there, she realized that she had forgotten something: her passport. Our hostel had taken it when we had checked in, and the front desk had yet to open, so she had forgotten to ask for it back on her way out.

Katie made several desperate phone calls and finally got through to someone at the hostel. By that point, she was already at the airport, and her coworkers were checking in for their flight. While she calculated whether she'd have enough time to return to the hostel, pick up her passport and go back to the airport without missing her flight, the man on the phone suggested, “Don't worry, we'll bring your passport to you.”

Katie considered the odds that a stranger would drive across the city with her most important possession, find her and deliver it, no questions asked or rewards demanded: close to zero. She refused, stating instead that she would take a taxi back to the hostel and pick it up, and possibly miss her flight.

By the time Katie's taxi made it back to the Old Quarter, the oppressive traffic was in full force. The street vendors were also out, so there was no way the large car could drive down our hostel's narrow alley. While Katie considered what to do next, an employee of the hostel ran up to the taxi, passport in hand. She was saved.

Or so she thought. The man held out the passport and Katie noticed an obvious mistake: it was from Canada! This was the same man who had suggested that they deliver the passport to the airport. Katie informed him of his error, and the embarrassed man ran back to the hostel to retrieve the correct passport. Luckily, Katie made her flight, so all was well. Unfortunately, I didn't get to witness any of these events firsthand because I was sound asleep in my cozy bed.

Lesson of the day: Whenever someone returns your passport, always make sure you have the right one. Better yet, don't let your passport out of your sight. (Though sometimes you don't have a choice.)

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