I've decided to start a new series, "Cities in Pictures". My goal in life is to travel to as many places around the world. During those travels I will take pictures to not only remember the places I've been, but capture their spirit. All pictures are taken by me, and I ask that none are used without permission. Please enjoy a look at the first City in Pictures, Hanoi, Vietnam!
From the top of my hostel I am able to see just how crowded the city is. City planning does not exist, and the same cheap materials make up most of the buildings. Even from this height the never ending cacophony of the streets surrounds us.
There is a railroad which runs through town, is it in use? I don't think so. There's so safety barriers and the shops are all very close to the tracks.
A visit to the Temple of Literature shows the dirt and grime with seems to coat the city. Opaque reflection pools of green, weathered monuments.
Along the streets you see traditional sights, mainly that of women selling local foods. They can be pushy, yelling at you as you wait to cross the street and shoving bananas and pineapples into your hand and demanding money.
Traffic laws are something unknown in the city. Most streetlights don't work, and the streets are so busy that traffic moves at a slow pace. There aren't many sidewalks, and the ones that are there usually have tiny plastic chairs where locals sit crowding the walkway.
The streets are crammed with buildings and the power lines are a cross-crossing mess. It's very easy to get turned around and completely lose your way, but that also leads to great possibility for adventure and exploration.
The pho is fantastic. A light, crisp meal in a bowl that fills you up so you can continue going about your day. Walking along the road you'll see a small shop with people outside, just go in and grab a bowl. Hanoi doesn't really have restaurants, and I think that's fantastic.
Banh mi is a must. Vietnam is great at marrying flavorful meats with fresh vegetables in ways you can't get anywhere else. Not to mention the bread. The bread is just so, so good. It's a light lunch to pick up as you walk towards your night sight.
The center of town boasts a lake. Foreigners line the red bridge to see the Temple of the Jade Mountain. The lake is also home to endangered soft-shell turtles that lucky visitors may get a chance to see.
The water puppet theater to the north of Hoan Kiem lake is an enjoyable way to spend an hour of your day, even if you can't understand Vietnamese. It's a unique production you'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Most of the streets themselves are covered in a canopy of bright green trees. It's amazing to see the branches appearing to emerge from the buildings themselves. The abundance of trees leads to nice, shady strolls through the tropical city.
Souvenir shops line most main streets, all housing the same goods packed into their stores, waiting to sell to unsuspecting tourists looking for something unique to bring home.
Remnants of the French occupation are still prevalent around the city, best shown by the dreary looking Notre Dame near the center of town. The gates which surround it give it a feel of an era long past.
At night the streets come alive with stalls selling anything you could think of. It's refreshing to not worry about traffic for once while walking along the roads, and the sound of car horns is replaced by the sound of music.
A food tour is a must in the city. Not only are you guided along by a local you get to try foods you never would have dreamed of. There are so many little set ups of all these different dishes lining the roads, it's hard to tell which are good and which are not-so-good. Hint: It's almost always good if there are people around!
Hope you enjoyed this first city in pictures! Please click on the images for better quality shots!