Why People Watching in Hanoi is Some of the Best in the World
From the minute you depart the airport, first-time visitors to Hanoi will immediately feel the buzz of the city, specifically in the form of motor bikes and traffic patterns unlike anything seen or permitted in North America. While it takes a few minutes to get used to, this travel writer personally grew to love this aspect of the city, the endless stream of traffic that flows thanks to the lack of traffic signals.
Take a look at the photos. I mean really look at them. It might look like everything is at a stand-still, but trust in the fact that all the vehicles you see are in motion, each massaging their way and taking the shortest distance between their two points of travel. Cars. Motor bikes. Pedestrians. Bicycles. You even have motor bikes going between traffic in the wrong direction. The signs that do exist are pretty much ignored, and intersections become a game of chicken as parties approach from all directions. If you could only hear the horns.
It's a culture shock found all over Vietnam, one where crossing the street is essentially a game of Frogger. Except in this case, unlike the game, so long as you keep a steady pace and course, the traffic will find its way around you. That's simply how it's done, and if you look deep into the photos, you can see pedestrians and cyclists finding their way through the maze.
Any street corner is a good place to sit and observe, but there are a number of above-ground coffee shops and restaurants on the northern side of Hoan Kiem Lake at the intersection of Hang Dao and Dinh Tien Hoang (shown in the photos) that are especially entertaining. Grab a cup of joe or a brew and enjoy a bird's eye view of this Vietnamese take on people watching.
[Photos: Will McGough]