The Sepia-Toned Pandemonium Of Hanoi, Vietnam

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I arrived in Hanoi airport after a white-knuckle roller coaster courtesy of the lingering typhoon in the area. I had no idea what to expect, really. My idea of Southeast Asia was something along the lines of a ramble through Cambodia and Laos. Like the good relationship maintainer that I am, I put those on the back burner for my fiance’s choice, Hanoi.

This article at the Financial Times reminded me of that wide-eyed taxi ride into the heart of the Old Quarter. My first surprise was the conglomeration of architecture that blindsided me. Traditional houses are flanked by ominously tall, brick and stucco French-influenced buildings, and the scattering of temples and churches makes the appearance of this energetic city mirror the chaotic roads that entangle it.

Our next few days were spent wandering the labyrinth of streets making up the Old Quarter. Everything was thrust into our faces; not the hawkers, but the life that makes up the streets. Everything takes on a worn, hard-working look to it.

As the FT puts it, “There’s hardly a sharp edge or sleek surface to be seen; everything has been worn down by human hands, pollution, rain, heat and floods.” People selling their goods everywhere, bia hoi’s being sold next to pho noodle stands, all while the gazillion horns seem to make a constant noise you learn to tune out. It’s a poetic pandemonium of energy and life within the city.

“Hanoi, Vietnam’s capitol, is a city in sepia.”

I was seduced by it all. So much, that I know I will walk those streets again. Maybe even before I get to those other places I want to get to.

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