Hanoi – City of Motorbikes

After I crossed the border from China to Vietnam, there was one big difference which appeared to me right away. This difference between China and Vietnam is in the architecture. Vietnam has a very interesting style of building houses. Nothing in the Vietnamese architecture resembles traditional Chinese buildings, however it seems there is more influence from the french colonial period. The most interesting peculiarity is, that many houses are built very narrow, some not even three meters wide and just enough to fit in a small single room. On the other hand these houses are rather long and high. Here is a picture of typical houses, however this one was actually taken in Nha Trang (it is the same everywhere in Vietnam):

Typical narrow Vietnamese houses

When my bus got closer to Hanoi I realized a deep humming sound getting louder and louder. That’s actually a bit exaggerated, but at the latest when I was in Hanoi and when I got of the bus, I could here that humming noise. The sound comes from the herds of motorbikes swarming through the streets of Hanoi. To get an idea have a look at this video (taken in Hanoi):

In Hanoi I stayed at the Central Backpackers hostel. 5 USD per night include a bed in a dorm room, breakfast and free beer every night. A backpackers paradise. The free beer happy hour has the positive effect that all guests meet in the lobby every night. It’s almost inevitable on a backpacking trip, that you meet the same people in different hostels again. Many backpackers are somehow on a similar route. This time I met a nice guy from Chilly again, who I already met in my dorm in Beijing. Together with him and with two girls from Holland, who we also met at the hostel, we did a 3 day trip to Halong bay.

The Central Backpackers hostel is situated right in the center of Hanoi, next to the St. Joseph church. The center is very crowded with tourists, more than I’ve seen anywhere in China. It seemed like every second person was from the west. Not far from the hostel, there are many tourist attractions. For example the water puppet show, the night market and the hoam kien lake.

Turtle tower at the Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi

On one of my strolls in Hanoi, I found a street, not far from the hostel, which was full of camera stores. I was still looking for a new zoom lens, so I was checking out these stores. The prices (all in USD) of some of the lenses I checked were actually a little cheaper than in Austria. The stores also had a lot of used lenses which were even cheaper. I have to say that most other electronic gadgets I looked at, like camera bodies or SD cards, where either the same price or even more expensive than in Austria.
Anyway I ended up buying a used lens (Canon EF-S 55-250mm with IS) in perfect condition for 180 USD. A new one would have been 220 USD.

One thing Austria and Vietnam has in common is, when it comes to football. Both peoples are huge football fans, and love to watch it on TV, especially foreign leagues like the English league or the Champions league. However both countries suck at playing it (compared to other national teams and leagues). Then, on the other hand, both countries are really good at table football. Actually, Austria and Vietnam are the only two countries I know where table football is really popular and where people really know how to play it, like doing tricks and playing it fast.

After Hanoi and the Halong bay tour I took the train to Saigon, which was, thanks to floods in central Vietnam, a much longer train ride than expected.

Have a look at the galleries to see more pictures from Hanoi.