Tuesday, January 1, 2008


I already miss Hanoi. A jumbled, pulsing city full of back streets filled to bursting with all sorts of stalls, shops and street food. It's a great place to hang out and meet people.

Hanoi traffic is particularly crazy, even by the standards of developing countries. Traffic is dominated by bicycles, scooters and motorcycles and if the road is clogged, these all flood onto the sidewalks. The best (and indeed only) way to cross the road is simply to walk out into the traffic and let it flow around you. It's important to go slowly so that the various bikers have a chance to judge your speed and trajectory. Junctions are a wonder to behold, particularly from above. Traffic signals are rare - instead, traffic slows down and merging streets weave through each other in an intricate dance. The system doesn't always work however and I was twice involved in minor crashes while perched on the back of motorcycle taxis. No one ever gets irate. It's just all part of the wider traffic of life.

Uncle Ho's mausoleum. The poor chap wanted to be cremated but the state had other ideas. I filed past his waxy remains with lots of Vietnamese. He's only open from 8am to 10:30am, 5 days a week. Being a dead communist leader would seem like a good gig, at least in terms of the hours.

The Ho Chi Minh Museum was the strangest museum I've ever been to. Rather than historical exhibits or information it instead displayed a collection of symbolic exhibits, attempting to show Ho's struggle and that of the nation. It was all pretty impenetrable to me, this strange sculpture being a prime example.

A typical back street in Hanoi's Old Quarter.

I bought some oranges from this bright and breezy street seller.

The street food in Hanoi was excellent. Each stall specializes in a particular kind of dish, which makes repeat ordering very simple but the first visit very complex.

I bought an old Soviet watch from this repair stall. The number of shops and stalls devoted to repairing everything from motorcycles to clocks makes you realise what a throw-away society the West has become.

On the way back through Bangkok I enjoyed this super tasty street stall meal, which came with beer served over ice in a child's bucket. Mmmm. Bucket of beer.

Spectators in Bangkok rooting for their boxer at a Thai boxing arena.

Thai boxing is a very young mans sport and surprisingly full of fascinating ritual.

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