About Hanoi - Latado.com

Hanoi is one of the most exciting cities in the world, a delightful place where your sense of wonder can be tickled everyday by the unexpected.

 

Hanoi is a vibrant, growing city of over six million, considered by many to be the cultural and spiritual heart of Vietnam. Less influenced by the west than Ho Chi Minh City, her sister to the south, this modern city has retained its traditional roots, with small, family-owned businesses taking the place of fast food chains, mega-supermarkets and international department stores. Hanoi has a character rarely seen in modern Asian cities with beautiful examples of French colonial architecture, mature trees on almost every street and busy cafes and shops spilling onto the sidewalks.

 

An overabundance of energy assaults you in Hanoi. Thousands of motorbikes, cars, trucks, bicycles, and pedestrians all compete for space on Hanoi’s narrow, twisting streets. A blizzard of sound assaults you. Horns honking, a hawker’s singsong sales pitch, the happy roar of diners at an al fresco cafe – Hanoi is a city that never seems to slow down.

 

It is possible to see refrigerators, plate glass windows and full-sized mattresses strapped onto motorbikes, motorbikes hauling pigs, dozens of chickens, cases of pots and pans, a motorbike stacked ten feet high with cases of toilet paper – it’s amazing how the distribution network happens in this city!

 

The local economy of Hanoi is built upon relationships. Prices are rarely marked and negotiation is expected. A purchase is as much of a social agreement as a business transaction. A foreigner can expect to pay more than a local, a young woman may pay more than an elderly man; a person wearing peasant clothing will almost certainly pay less than someone wearing an expensive suit. A regular customer, local or foreigner, will get a price that is a fraction of what may be charged to a stranger.

 

Other cities may have bigger markets or more glittery temples than Hanoi, but it seems that no other city offers such a sense of “other-ness.” There is no better way to experience Hanoi than by walking through the many micro-neighborhoods of the Old Quarter (the Hoan Kiem District). You’ll hear the tin street before you get there, as a block full of tinsmiths hammer from dawn until dusk manufacturing the goods of their trade. Hang Ma is the street where bright lanterns, elaborate gift baskets, stacks of paper offerings, cards, lights and holiday decorations erupt in a carnival of color. Hang Bac, which sells every sort or silver imaginable, is near Lan Ong, where the tantalizing smells of Chinese herbs and tea drift to the sidewalks. There are linen streets, candy streets, fish streets, toy streets, art streets, audio streets, baby clothes streets, silk streets, and yes, even cell phone streets.


The exuberant and incredibly energetic nature of Hanoi's people make it unique among the world's great cities. The laughter of children and the honest curiosity of the people are welcoming. The arousing atmosphere of ordered chaos, seasoned with a hint of chance, luck and fortune sharpen the senses. Its population, the majority of whom were born after the wars ended, are irrepressible idealists. Their world is developing, their city is growing and they are determined to be involved and successful. If history is any indicator, they will be.

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