Welome to the fifth and final edition of this American‘s impressions of Vietnam’s second largest city. In no particular order, here are yet more observations of my adopted city for the past two and a half months.
- Bills are paid in person
Every now and then a random person will ring the doorbell and ask for money for the water, electricity, or Internet. Apparently this is how bills are paid in Hanoi.
- There is little separation between indoors and outdoors, public and private
This was especially noticeable over the Tet holiday (Chinese New Year) when a lot of families were at home. Walking around the streets you could hear the sounds from inside peoples’ homes (TVs, music, people talking) and even look into their living rooms and kitchens from the street as it is common to leave the doors open.
- It helps to be able-bodied
This is probably true for travelling and life in general, but having good overall fitness and flexibility makes life here much more enjoyable. Being able to negotiate traffic and roadside obstacles as well as make do with tight spaces is quite useful. Motorbiking can also be physically demanding. Hanoi would be a difficult city for a handicapped person.
- Lack of religion
As an officially atheist nation, there is not much open display of religious belief. Since religion is a non-factor in my life, I find his charming.
- Public urination
It is an infrequent, yet not uncommon sight to see men standing by a wall to relieve themselves. If this were any more prevalent it would probably be off-putting, but it’s not a rampant occurrence and usually quite discreet.
- No beggars
Even though Vietnam is not a rich country, I have yet to encounter a classic “beggar” here. I’m not sure if this is because of the communist system taking care of everyone or if Vietnamese people have too much pride to ask for handouts directly. Or if it’s culturally taboo in some other way. The closest thing to “beggars” are the occasional people offering to shine your shoes for a small fee.
- It’s easy to get lost
Google Maps exists here and I use it on my smartphone to get around the city, but often I end up turned around. My sense of direction has improved over time, but navigating the streets can be confusing.
- Motorbike taxis
It took me a while to realize that the people waving at me shouting “moto-bike” were not offering to sell me a motorbike. Rather, they were offering me a ride. As far as I can tell, motorbike “taxis” are just regular people offering to drive you from point A to point B on their bike. Kind of like an informal Uber. I have never taken one but I hear they are much cheaper than regular taxis.