Friday, 2 April 2010

Hanoi 24.03.10 - 25.03.10

Hanoi's Old Quarter, as it's officially known, is a warren of streets manic with traffic and shop sellers, craftsmen and street chefs cooking up breakfast noodles, lunch and dinner and many meals in between for their customers who sit comfortably on tiny childrens' size plastic stools, chopsticks at the ready. They seem to be blissfully unaware of the pedestrians, albeit mostly tourists (nobody else walks here apart from the peasant women with their shoulder baskets full of fruit or wares) who are trying to weave in and out of them along the pavement. Pavements are virtually nonusable for walkers here. They are the domain of endless parked up scooters, shops who've extended their selling space by laying out their wares on cloths, families and friends squatting or sitting on those tiny stools having a gold old natter, or craftsmen who work with hammers, chisels, welding tools directly on the street making metal containers and cooker hoods, furniture, wooden shrines and buddhist prayer slabs. This means you have to take your life in your hands and gingerly walk down the road, hugging the edge as close as you can because scooters, bicycles and cars are hot on your tail beeping you out the way constantly. Sometimes it's necessary to cross the road by simply stepping out into the traffic. This may seem crazy, but when the line is relentless and they tend to only be travelling at around 10km an hour there's little chance that someone will be silly enough to hit you. They'd probably end up just falling off their bike anyway. We find it all quite tiring, and we've only been out and about for one day. The residents here have it day in day out. There's a distinct increase in smog levels in this part of town especially. We've noticed a visible dust hanging over the streets. It's actually a lot cooler here than it was even in Hue. The average day temperature is around 18 degrees, which is a damn sight less than the 34 we've been used to. We're positively chilly and have to get out the winter woolies again. It's welcome to not be sweltering midday onwards, but we're missing the intense sunshine that coloured everything up so nicely further south. It's cloudy here with a low fog masking the sun's attempts to break through.