February 22nd 2017
Hanoi is wild! Think Delhi traffic, without the squalor and the smell, Tokyo bling without the 22nd century tech, Paris cafés without the refined insouciance, and of course Istanbul with its endless ‘Street of the Remote Controls’ ‘Street of the Medium Sized Rattan baskets’ ‘Street of the 7 inch brass pipes’ etc. etc. I soon learn that the existentialist crisis involved in crossing the road is amped up to an 11 in Hanoi. Fully 95% of Hanois appear to be under 40, and they are all riding motorbikes. In fact, the only folks who are not are the over 80s, but they have been so successfully culled that the chances of finding an experienced local to cozily tuck myself in behind is effectively zero. The millenials in particular seem to be working something out and have perfected a killer combo of the 1000-yard stare coupled to very subtly revving up as soon as they even sense a pedestrian. As I tentatively take my foot off the curb I feel like nothing more than grabbing their ears and giving them a twist while yelling ‘DUDE! I’m not YOUR mom!’.
Still I do manage to make it to the Hanoi Hilton and back although I am so shaken that
by dinner time at the fried eel café I find it necessary to shanghai the nice gentleman who has been forced to share my table (for $2 a private table is not an option) into shepherding me across the particularly horrifying intersection en route to the hotel. He’s from Hong Kong and seems as terrified as me, although more convinced that we aren’t going to get mowed down.
More tomorrow if I make it back alive from Ho Chi Min’s mausoleum.