A Travellerspoint blog

On the Streets of Hanoi

Drinking beer and eating street food with the locals

overcast 78 °F

Rule of thumb in Southeast Asia: The smaller the chairs, the cheaper the food!
It has been over a month since both of us fell very ill to some serious food poisoning in Laos, long enough for us to regain confidence again in street foods. So we toured the streets of Hanoi tasting ‘fresh’ beer, coffee, bbq, bun chau, cha ca, and tofu dessert, all of which required sitting on the sidewalk, or in the street on little plastic chairs made for 4 year-old children. Eating on the streets is so much fun because you get to sit face to face (literally sometimes) with the locals, eat tasty homemade delights and drink delicious beverages all while watching the hustle and bustle through of the alleys of the Old Quarter in Hanoi. We enjoyed a few meals and beers with our new friend Chris (from sleeper bus).

We rented bicycles to explore the city and entered into the chaotic traffic, the amazing thing is how the Vietnamese somehow resist any urges of road rage in a land where you are constantly cut off, beeped at, and nudged around. It actually became quite simple once we let go of all that we have learned about etiquette, good driving, and being courteous… sound familiar from our post on crossing the street in Ho Chi Minh? Using the red traffic lights only as a suggestion, there is only one real rule: Don’t hit what is in front of you. In essence, ignorance is bliss! You never have to look behind you, indicate that you are turning, or worry about whose turn it is at an intersection. If you did look, you would be risking “losing face” (which is a huge no-no in Asia) by knowingly cutting someone off. Kevin was photographed three different times by tourists, either because his bike was way too small (think clown in the circus), or because of the monstrous grin on his face. Organized chaos for sure, but quite fun.

We have been trying to live without the existence of the ‘proper queue’ (i.e. standing in line for something). No one in Asia ever forms a proper line… it’s more like a battle to the death, and we think that ‘survival man’ TV series should forget about how to survive a plane crash in the desert and do a show on how to survive boarding a bus or buying a train ticket in Asia. One example that left Kevin’s jaw dropped was when we are at a bank; Kevin was clearly standing in front of a ticketing machine reading the options with his hand hovering over the screen when someone stepped next to him, reached around him, made a selection, took a ticket, and walked away! We tried to catch something like this on camera at an ice cream shop where Robin was determined to get a cone… note in the picture below that there is a hand waving money that appears to be poking out of Robin’s belly (that’s someone pushing and leaning on her from behind to try and jump queue) Luckily, she hung in there for our tasty desert.

Although extremely touristy we do recommend the famous ‘water puppet’ show. Tickets are priced to sell and we found the 45 minute show pretty entertaining. There was a live orchestra and singers who talked to these indescribable puppets. Imagine a stage made of water with puppeteers standing in the water but hidden by curtains. Puppets connected to rods under the water would enter through the curtain and perform a story. We saw the puppeteers at the end of the show when they came out for a bow and they all had forearms bigger than Popeye AFTER he ate his spinach!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 09:35 Archived in Vietnam

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