With a population of 6.5 million, Vietnams capital city may not the largest in the country (that title belongs to Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City), but after spending a few days in its midst we think it is certainly the most hectic.
Saigon perhaps delivered a more crazy road crossing experience simply due to the fact the roads are wider and the whole process takes that little bit longer. But in terms of overall craziness and activity for us Hanoi takes the biscuit.
Our initial few days saw the city shrouded in grey skies and rain and looking like some kind of distopian city from the pages of a science fiction novel, but a day of bright sunshine and the place is transformed into a wonderfully colourful place to walk around. Both sides of its character have the kind of charm that grows on you and the streets feel like they have a life all of their own.
Pavements are used for motorcycle parking and street shops meaning you spend most of your time hopping in and out of the roads; it serves coffee that keeps you awake for a week; bizarrely the only form of graffiti is telephone numbers of handymen; unbelievably cheap beer and cheap haircuts are available if you are willing to sit on a small plastic stool in the street; speakers provide a soundtrack of government propaganda; washing up and food preparation is done on the pavement in large metal bowls; cabling spaghetti adorns poles that barely seem to take the weight; the Old Quarter streets are named after the trades that operate on them; and an hour or two wandering round Lenin park or Hoan Kiem Lake watching the locals doing their keep-fit regimes is not to be missed.
In the we end up liking Hanoi almost as much as we do Saigon, and we liked Saigon a lot.