The streets are the life-blood of Vietnam’s capital. Set to a soundtrack of beeping horns, Hanoi’s daily routines play out on its tree-lined avenues amid temples, French colonial buildings, glitzy malls and offices. Hoan Kiem Lake is a mecca for morning power walkers and Tai Chi fans, while in the maze-like Old Quarter tubular shop fronts spill out onto the pavements, which are reserved for everything but walking. Expect to see locals slurping noodle soup on tiny stools, enjoying a coffee and game of chequers, napping on a parked motorbike or getting a hair cut from a mobile barber.
Hanoi’s streets also bear the shadow of its tumultuous history, from Hoa Lo prison to the corpse of a US B52 bomber protruding from a lake. In typical enterprising fashion, a Hanoian serves up drinks in Café B52 nearby. Meanwhile, silent soldiers guard the mausoleum where Vietnam’s revered revolutionary leader, Uncle Ho, lies embalmed. Hanoi’s distinctive brand of street life is accompanied by an ever-churning river of motorbikes, cycles and the city’s female vendors, who pedal bicycles laden with fresh flowers and fruit.
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