I have been in Hanoi for one week now and I think I am settling into my new life here considerably well. At first, I was honestly intimidated by the city. There are so many people around ALL the time and personal space doesn’t seem to exist. A combination of unrelenting heat and pollution/dust makes you feel icky during daytime walks around the city. And I have yet to find a quiet space in Hanoi. Days are filled with the sound of car horns, people yelling (which is really just talking, but VERY loudly), and other miscellaneous noises.
Yes, Hanoi is a chaotic place, but it is also a truly beautiful city. For every bad smell there is the delicious smell of food cooking on the side of the road. Every honking motorbike reminds you that you are not alone. I think it is all of these things that make Hanoi such a special place and that have allowed me to grow so fond of this city in such a short time.
Simple tasks have become much more complicated here. Calling a taxi. Trying to order exactly what you want from street vendors. Even crossing the street. These are all very easy and basic things for me to do in Canada, but in Vietnam add in the language barrier and millions of motorbikes and suddenly you’re left with a challenge.
Things have already gotten easier though! I can successfully order my staple foods: a sinh tố xoài (mango smoothie), bánh mì trứng (egg sandwich), mì xào chay (vegetarian noodles), and bánh phở/phở chay (vegetarian phở). Every time I go out to eat it’s an adventure. You never quite know what you are going to end up with but it makes the experience that much more fun. Communication is still a challenge of course, but people are friendly and patient with me as I struggle to learn and speak Vietnamese.
Crossing the street isn’t such a big deal anymore either! There are just as many motorbikes and the traffic is just as crazy as when I first arrived, but I think I have discovered the structure to the unstructured driving: as you make your way slowly across the street, motorbikes and cars will just part around you and then resume to their regular pattern. Or that’s the hope anyway.