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Happy Hanoi
By Jared Crouch
7 January 2011

As my taxi pulls out of Hanoi airport after a very enjoyable flight onboard Thai Airways International, my first impression’s remind me of a South Pacific country with lots of windswept palms along the side of the road with very lush greenery. It also has that beautiful feel of high humidity and warmth in the air.

The taxi journey takes little over 30 minutes and it becomes apparent as I become closer to the city that scooters rule the roads. They swarm in numbers as we get closer to the city centre.

After a quick check-in, I leave the hotel in search of my fellow riders, camera in one hand, and map in the other. 

The only thing I knew before I arrived in Vietnam was when you want to cross a road – just walk! Don’t hesitate; they will just drive around you. I have this advice flowing through my head as I stand on my first corner absolutely intimidated by the sheer number of scooters flying by, all tooting their horns. I also wonder why they bother with white paint and stop lights because very few are paying attention.

I watch some locals cross the road and decide that the best way to cross is to jump behind the next local who is crossing. 

I am sure I bring some chuckles as I follow two young children who not so much as flinch as they cross. Lucky no one has a camera on my face – first road conquered!

The streets are crowded, people everywhere and everywhere is a shop front. It appears well organized as I walk down clearly what is the flower market, then further along Shoe Street, past suit lane and house hold utensils. I guess that is why the street name changes mid way along the street, to inform you of what is being sold in that particular section of the street. I know no Vietnamese so I will have to check that later. 

I stumble across a very large lake, in what seems to be the centre of Hanoi and it is in full colour and again full of people, mainly teenagers. Now, I am by no means a tall man, 173cm to be exact however I feel like a giant as I wander around.

We are a week away from the 1,000 year celebration of Hanoi - something I find hard to comprehend considering our 200+ year history of Australia. Everyone is wearing ‘I love Hanoi’ t-shirts, stickers and head bands. I draw even more giggles as I put on a head band and place stickers on my cheeks – I want to join in the celebrations as everyone is so happy and friendly. 

A very warm welcome and great first impression! 

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I know just what you mean about scooters - and cars, and buses, and trucks. Just the same in Ho Chi Minh. Took a couple of friends last year for their first holiday in Asia (barring Bali, of course - all West Australians have been there). The funniest thing was photographing Nigel and Val with a look of sheer terror on their faces, each clinging to my Partner and crossing the street.
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