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Pictures from the frenetic streets of Hanoi

by Michael on February 12, 2012

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Our hotel in Hanoi was in the Old Quarter, a frenzied and chaotic labyrinth of streets that rambled like they had been laid out by a toddler chasing a rabbit. Each street specializes in selling a certain product. Apparently our block was the bootleg DVD retail section, whenever we walked out of our hotel we were offered the latest Hollywood fare at 75 cents a pop. We’ve been gone from home for so long on this journey that we hadn’t even heard of most of the new releases.

A few streets over from us was the street devoted to the coffin sellers, the one place we could walk without someone asking us to come in and browse their fine selection. We felt fortunate that we didn’t appear to be in the market for a new coffin.

The sidewalks in Hanoi are an extension of the interior spaces. Anything that can be done inside is available for all to witness on the sidewalk: stir-frying dinner, cutting hair, chopping poultry, boiling water for tea, arranging flowers. The locals make such good use of the public space we half expected to see a baby delivered right out in the open. That is of course where the sidewalk isn’t being used as an open-air moped parking garage.

Oddly enough, one thing that doesn’t take place on the sidewalk is actually walking on them. So everyone crowds into the street: pedestrians, mopeds, bicycles, cars, rickshaws and ladies wearing conical straw hats balancing produce for sale on bamboo poles, all somehow manage to make way for each other in the daily ritual of Hanoi life.

Hanoi street barber (515x446)

The sidewalk provides a convenient open-air spot for a barber shop.

Amid all the gray a TV delivery provides a much needed dose of nature.

We loved the look on this kid’s face as he got ready for a ride in a sidecar.

These young boys were making furniture.

These girls rode around Hanoi all day advertising something.

A woman getting her hair done for Valentine’s Day weekend.

Rickshaws are Hanoi’s pickup trucks.

Hanoi street head pivot (515x467)

Larissa demonstrates the art of rapid head-spinning necessary to cross the street in Hanoi. Check out the little kid all bundled up sitting on the front of the motorcycle heading towards her.

Hanoi streets bread sellers (508x515)

Bread sellers wait outside the main train station with baskets of bread balanced on their head.

Hanoi street produce vendor tarp (515x460)

Sidewalk vegetable vendor.

Hanoi street yellow french building (515x442)

The French influence is visible in the architecture.

Hanoi street younger vendor yellow wall (515x438)

The streets are chock full of women selling items from bamboo poles slung over their shoulder. We tried it. Those things are heavy!

Hanoi sandals

One area had over fifty shoe stores, from flip-flops to high leather boots.

Hanoi street casket seller (515x461)

A quiet day on the street of the casket sellers. THE END

Click the link to read more about our trip to Vietnam.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula February 13, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Seems like much is the same on the streets of Hanoi since my visit in 2000. Except now they even have Americans blogging on the street!

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Us February 14, 2012 at 5:36 am

That, and every 3rd store or street stall was selling knock-off (we assume) iPhones. . . and that’s only new because iPhones didn’t exist in 2000! :)

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MissElaineous February 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Hey – looks like you finally hit someplace cold!

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Us February 14, 2012 at 5:37 am

Yep, it was actually refreshing for a few days–but now on to Thailand and warmer pastures!

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Barbara February 14, 2012 at 4:43 am

Hi Michael & Larissa,
Fascinating… I am just soaking up the color and life of these scenes.
Those girls on pink bicycles are a scream!
How many of us born in the US would be comfortable with expanding our personal spaces outside? Very few, I think. I wonder how the Vietnamese would qualify the concept of “privacy”?

Have a great day.

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Us February 14, 2012 at 5:26 am

It is so gray in Hanoi that it was hard to miss the girls on the pink bikes.

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Richard Needham February 15, 2012 at 11:52 pm

Wonderful photos and insights. I sometimes despair over how America seems to be getting more xenophobic, but I think those that are miss so much of what the world has to offer. Maybe they’ll stumble on your blog and change their minds. Have you been by the “Hanoi Hilton”, or what is left of it? I walked by it each day when I was doing some work with the Ministry of Health in Hanoi. There is also a small lake nearby; something like Hoanh Kiem, which is beautiful in the summer. Early in the morning, by 5:15 AM, half of Hanoi walks or jogs around it,completely taking over the streets. I’ve also been to Hanoi in January, and remember it most for the cold rainy weather.

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Us February 16, 2012 at 4:28 am

The January gray skies aren’t just from rain and clouds, the pollution is pretty bad too.

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Doz & Amanda February 20, 2012 at 5:37 am

We are now in Hanoi and i keep picturing this post as we walk around. We even saw the girls on the pink bikes!!
It is totally chaotic in the old quarter. A world away from Cat Ba island where we had 3 very relaxing days by the sea :)

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Us February 20, 2012 at 9:42 am

Glad to hear it.

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Nomadic Samuel February 22, 2012 at 2:19 am

This is a great photo essay! You’ve really captured the spirit on Hanoi here :)

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Us February 22, 2012 at 2:58 am

We had so many photos of Hanoi we may do a sequel.

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Richard Needham April 23, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Browsing through these pictures again, and others you have posted so far, I recognize America’s biggest contribution to the world at large (besides the word “okay”): it is blue jeans (Levi’s)…seen in many of these photos and all over the world. Maybe T-shirts also, but I don’t know if those are uniquely American. I hope you guys are still enjoying your adventure/quest.

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Emma @ GottaKeepMovin May 9, 2013 at 4:17 am

These are fantastic photos guys! I really love the one of the boys making furniture where he turned to smile for the camera for you, they look like sweet guys. And of course the fellow with the MASSIVE TV strapped to his bike! Thanks so much for sharing them.

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Michael May 9, 2013 at 8:08 am

Thanks Emma. The people we met in Hanoi were so very friendly.

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