The Old Quarter

Old Quarter street scene
Street market in Hanoi’s Old Quarter

The first impression of the Old Quarter in Hanoi is chaos.

The streets are crowded with traffic – mostly motorbikes, but also cars, often ridiculously large for the narrow streets,and the odd bicycle, usually ridden by an elderly person, a person who’s clearly very poor, or a youngster.There are few traffic lights and apparently even fewer road rules.

The footpaths are not for walking on. They are crowded with parked motorbikes and with people using them as an extension of their living room, workshop or shopfront. They are also occupied by street restaurant selling drinks and food cooked over coal-fired braziers, surrounded by diners hunched over small plastic tables on even smaller plastic stools for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Walking’s hard work, even if it’s a time of year when it’s not too hot. For a westerner used to sauntering down the street an empty stretch of pavement is a (rare) sight for sore eyes.

After a while it becomes apparent that, more than many cities, Hanoi is a collection of villages, and the chaos starts to make sense.



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4 responses to “The Old Quarter

  1. Marian

    Very descriptive. Yes, framing it as a collection of villages, would make sense I imagine. Then you can begin to see the differences between the villages.

  2. Mary-Anne

    Hi Jeannie, thanks for sending me your blog. I loved the old city. The streets that were full of wire and metal bits and pieces, engines and mechanics were some of my favorites. I also remember Mum, Liv and I so lost, hot and tired from walking that we drank drinks with ice in them! Of course it was factory ice and we survived despite the worst fears of some.

    • I have been consuming heaps of factory ice since I arrived. And eating salads. When you live in a developing country, rather than visit, you have to loosen up on the culinary front or you would never eat anything. Although after I saw bowls of herbs for being returned to a big plastic bag for reuse after they had already been picked over by diners I drew the line there.

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