Traffic and Train Lunacy in Hanoi

Everything we have known about cycling through city traffic is tossed right out the window. In preparation, we study. We stand there stunned, watching the movements of cars, trucks motorcycles and people for long periods of time and honestly it gives us the heebies just thinking about riding out of Hanoi on Thursday. Intersections more often than not have no lights or stop signs yet everyone criss-crosses with an ease that totally escapes us. When they do exist, signage and streetlights are merely inconsequential suggestions subject to interpretation. “One-way” streets?—whichever “one-way” you wanna go. We need to learn a new mindset—and right quick! We are newbs in a foreign land. Babes in the woods, really.

Us newbs got hungry. We eyeballed crowds of Vietnamese diners communing around their Hot Pots and we wanted in on that action but being newbs we aren’t sure how to handle the Hot Pot procedure. Instead we went to Train Street, for a different experience. You can sip coffee, slurp noodles or guzzle beer at the train tracks edge. Sitting on itty bitty chairs at an itty bitty table placed tight up against a wall we awaited  beef noodles. Then the whistle blew—the train whistle—the whistle that lurched all the proprietors into action guiding people, chairs & tables back into the three-foot zone against the wall—tuck those hands & feet in, sit upright and hold on to your belonging cuz a train is coming through. The train comes barrelling through and  the whoosh is real—Randy had money sitting on the table and 50,000 VND (Vietnamese Dongs) took flight in one direction and another 100,000 flew the other. Could have been worse. Phew!

We have arrived during Tết, short for Tết Nguyên Đán, which coincides with the Lunar New Year and is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. People are out enjoying family time together some dressed in beautiful áo dài—traditional Vietnamese garments. While we adorn our homes with Christmas trees during our holiday season, here it’s the ornamental kumquat tree, representing prosperity and fruitfulness.

We walked around the “old quarter” of Hanoi during our 10km explore. Unique to that section are extremely narrow passageways sandwiched in between big old buildings. They are looooong, and dark, but oh-so-intriguing. Apparently there are little communities living in and beyond those alleyways. Some homes are so deeply embedded in the alleyway that the light of day is never seen.

Jet lag is real and our bodies were dead exhausted after our walkabout. A little “nap” turned into a four-hour convalescing sleep. We have one more day to get a grip on it before we roll out of Hanoi.  Bikes are assembled and ready to roll….now we just need our bodies to do the same.

Posted in Uncategorized, Vietnam 2024.


  1. I loved your descriptions Anita…it takes me back to some very fond memories. I remember our drive from the airport continually honking his horn even though there was almost nothing to honk at all the way to our friend’s place. The honking button was totally worn out! NEVER LOOK TO THE SIDE was the best advice we got. There was one spot that was good for a haircut by the water’s edge. Too bad that you probably don’t need one Randy. Anita, hopefully there won’t be any ‘fruitfulness’ after your journey.

    • We’re catching onto the horn honking & when it’s applied. It seems to be a “notification” of sorts that they are about to pass you on the road, or go through an intersection. Likely because nobody, and I mean nobody, looks behind them when turning or changing lanes it seems.

  2. Anita your description of the intersections sounds much like Thailand, is it similar? Much of your pictures also remind me of Thailand however I do worry of you if you are describing heebies about cycling out of Hanoi especially after cycling in Bangkok. Be careful my friends. Love Randy’s shoulder bag 😉 Your pictures are lovely as usual.
    Rest up and get those bodies ready for a great adventure!

  3. Anita, I really can see a book in the making of ALL your cycling adventures. Using your blog and picture martial
    So entertaining

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