In February 2014 I spent a few days in Hanoi, Vietnam. It was the first stop of many on a South East Asia trip with some friends of mine.
For those of you who don’t know, Hanoi is the Capital of Vietnam and it is the second most populated area in the country. Hanoi served as the capital of French Indochina from 1902 to 1954 and then as the capital of North Vietnam until the end of the Vietnam war in 1976 where it became the capital of a newly united Vietnam.
February is actually one of the colder months in Hanoi but the average low is still 14C and the average highs are 21C. So we were expecting nice weather, especially compared to the freezing cold of February in Canada that we were used to. Unfortunately I don’t think it came above 15C at the peak of the day for most of the time we were in the city.
Other than the less than stellar weather, Hanoi was an incredible change from the usual vacations I’m used to. As soon as we were on the shuttle from the airport to the city center, it was an incredible eye opener. I haven’t spent much time outside of North America and the trips that I had gone on were in Europe which is highly developed and prosperous. Vietnam is not highly developed, the conditions people lived in on the route from the airport will make you very thankful for the opportunities you have in life.
The streets of Hanoi
The first day in Hanoi we signed up for a walking tour, which I’d recommend in any city you’re visiting. You’ll get a tour of the area in which you’re staying so you’ll be more familiar with getting around and hopefully won’t get lost trying to get back. You also have a chance to ask as many questions as you want with a local or at least someone who is very familiar with the way things work in that city.
In Hanoi, we were lucky to have a local guide show us around. Probably the most important thing we learned on the walking tour was how to cross the roads. Now I know that sounds like a very dumb thing to learn, but if you’ve ever been to a city where the traffic is 95% scooters, you’ll know what I mean. The streets of Hanoi are packed all day with scooters. There was every type of scooter and combination of people and cargo on them; from one person on a scooter to a whole family or a cargo load that was meant for a truck. Those pictures you see online aren’t one time occurrences; they’re everyday life somewhere else.