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The streets of Hanoi

Updated on February 12, 2013

Louie-Thomas Hanoi

Louie-Thomas is an Inhouse designing company based in Dunedin, New Zealand,as well as the Gold coast in Australia.

That's a long way from the streets of Hanoi i know, so what's the connection??

Well, we have our own manufacturing workshop in Hanoi, so it gives us a great opportunity to spend time discovering Hanoi each time we come up to make our beautful products.

Join the guys from 'Louie-Thomas' as we roam the streets of Hanoi by motorcycle.

The art of motorcycling in Hanoi - advice and some tips

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Wanna get on the road and explore the streets of Hanoi? Firstly you'll need a motorbike and you'll need to get a helmet too-because it's the law!

The law came to pass around 2005/6 and gradually people started to buy helmets. It wasn't strictly enforced at first, but that may have been because of the price of a helmet, and even because of the stifling heat in summer, which makes driving in Hanoi uncomfortable at the best of times. Still, for safety reasons it is advisable to wear one.

Now, I rent my motorbike for $50.00 US per month. I think it is a good deal, and if i have any problems with it or if it breaks down (which is not very often) the crew from the garage will come out and fix it. (NO extra costs, unless it is my fault and i damage it or something etc)

If you need any help looking for a motorbike, by all means contact me for further info.

For me,

getting a motorbike is fun, and the most advantageous aspect of having a bike in Hanoi is that it gives you incredible freedom to travel.

You can go anywhere!

Believe me, when you are in a beautiful city like Hanoi and one that has recently celebrated 1,000 years of history, you'll find so much to see and do.

I really enjoy my free time over here.I always find it a challenge to try and find my way around but that's part of the fun.

There are thousands of cafes,bars, and restaurants to discover, as well as thousands of narrow paths to drive along and get lost in.

I've been 'lost' many a time in this city without any guidebooks to help, and mostly that's been a good thing!

I've been lucky to discover lots of 'exciting new places' that no guide book would ever have come close to telling me about.

So my advice is -get lost!

Only then will you pick up a true sense of what this city really has to offer.

In terms of travelling by motorcycle. Definitely do it!

And if you do, the best advice I can give you when you ride your bike around town is- 'DON"T SPEED'

Road rules are not like anything you might have experienced before, for example, hardly anyone 'GIVES WAY"

and many people will PULL OUT in front of you from side streets without any warning, so don't speed.

I had the misfortune to assume in my early days living in Hanoi, that people would 'give way'

Excuse the metaphor but- 'NO way...Don't BET on any apple pie here!'

I had a small accident once, where i was forced to brake hard because someone had pulled out from a side street in front of me without looking.

Of course IF I hadn't of braked hard, then I would have collided with the motorbike for sure.

The road was wet that night, and I fell off.

In Vietnam when you have any minor accidents such as this, you can be quickly surrounded by large groups of curious onlookers, which can make you feel a little uncomfortable. I know it does for me.

Feeling the presence of a crowd forming and not wanting to attract any attention by being encircled i quickly picked myself up and my motorbike and took off, eventutally to find some open spaces nearby where i sat down to nurse my wounds.

A few scratches and bruises.

Once I felt alright again (I thought I was going to pass out you see) I continued my journey and rode back to my flat.

I hope i haven't put you off!!!!

Yes, accidents are common around Vietnam, and you need to have your witts about you!

I remember reading in 'Vietnam News' where it said that 13,000 people had died from road accidents in one year.

Aside from this, if you are sensible and defensive in your approach to driving then you should be fine.

In my 'little accident' i had been driving too fast.

So, buy a helmet!

(In the picture above you can see a helmet shop...)

Written by Dahn Blanchard for Louie-Thomas

What an empty street would have looked like in the 1990s before the motorbike suddenly became popular - A quiet street in Hanoi before motorbikes became all the

Today the streets are filled with motorbikes.

Photograph taken by Dahn Blanchard 1990s

Today it's a city full of motorbikes

Let's get moving! - How many people can i take with me on my motorcycle?

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Officially two adults and one child. This family is considered to be law-abiding.

I remember counting 6 people on a bike one time....unfortunately i didn't have my camera to take a picture of it.

Expect the unexpected!

Travelling by motorbike is an eye-opener

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There are many ways of taking passengers once you have a motorbike. In this case the baby is strapped in on the front, and riding with mum.

Photography by Louie-Thomas

life in the old quarter - A street corner where one can buy paintings,flowers and fruit

The old quarter of Hanoi has just celebrated 1000 years.

Photograph taken by Dahn Blanchard

How to cross the street in Hanoi - It is wise to be cautious when you are a pedestrian too

The water man!

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If you've just moved into town, probably you'll have to order some drinking water from a chap like this one.

This is the man who will come to see you.

Photography by Louie-Thomas

the motorbike is a real workhorse

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This chap is heading off to a building site.

Sometimes the best way to describe Vietnam is that it feels like 'one huge building site'

There's a lot of noise, and construction going on, wherever you travel.

Photography by Louie-Thomas

There are all types of bikes on the road! - freedom rules!

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Photography by Louie-Thomas

Every day businesses are on the go! - Vietnam's economy is moving ahead full speed!

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This is how fresh produce and local products are delievered to shops around the city, especially in the old quarter of Hanoi.

Actually it is easier to dirve in the old quarter on a motorbike rather than by car, as all the roads are so narrow!

Photography by Louie-Thomas

A typical petrol station - Time to fill up!

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This is the nearest gas station to my apartment. It used to cost me 30,000 Vietnam Dong to fill up in 1999, but today because of recent gas prices, it will now cost you about 100,000 Vietnam Dong! Ouch!

Photography by Louie-Thomas

Fast food - Time to stop and have a bite to eat

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Discovering Hanoi.

The best thing about driving around Hanoi, is that there are thousands of cafes, restaurants and food stalls ready to be discovered, especially in the old quarter. Fortunately food prices are still pretty reasonable.

How about a bowl of Pho Ga?

Chicken noodle soup

Photography by Louie-Thomas

A busy restaurant on the footpath - Popular local eatery

This is a top spot for local dishes.

Photograph taken by Nga Blanchard for Louie-thomas

Yummy-a bowl of pho ga (chicken soup noodles) - Heaps of recipes to make Pho Ga

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Making noodle soup is an art form which may take a bit of time to get right.

I would encourage you to keep trying, as it is just delicious, when cooked right!

There are many recipes for Chicken Noodle soup.

Photograph taken by Louie-Thomas

Here are acouple of links that will connect you to some great Pho Ga recipes.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/...

Links to some Vietnamese recipes

Great recipes for Vietnamese dishes

Great Vietnamese cookbooks

Some excellent Vietnamese cookbooks

A typical outdoor street vendor

In terms of street food it is generally safe to eat outside however if you are worried about eating contaminated food, the best advice i can give you is that you should make sure that you

choose the cafes in town that seem to be more frequented by people. The popular outdoor cafes tend to go through food faster, and so the food isn't lying around for long periods.

That way you'll know that it's generally safe to eat, and if the locals are eating the food, then the quality can't be too bad. I've never heard of a local returning repeatedly to a cafe that serves bad food.

Photograph taken by Nga Blanchard for Louie-Thomas

'Bo Nam Nuong' (Vietnamese sizzling beef)

This dish is called Bo Nam Nuong. This kind of dish would cost about $10 US dollars.

Yummy! Can usually be bought in the old quarter of town at cafes and most BBQ restuarants

Photograph taken by Nga Blanchard

'Bun Dau Mam Tom' A typical Vietnamese dish - Fresh rice noodles with traditional shrimp sauce and herbs

A lot of dishes in Vietnam are quite healthy, as they tend to use a lot of natural herbs in their cooking

Photo taken by Nga Blanchard

Do you know what these guys are selling? - Three men walking down the street singing a song....what could they be selling????

They are selling chewing gum!

These entreprenuel salesmen are singing songs as they wander around the streets selling chewing gum.

One man has a microphone, and he sings the songs, another pushes the speaker, which runs on wheels.

Photograph taken by Nga Blanchard for Louie-Thomas

The colourful world of Hanoi can be festive fun - It's Christmas time, and Santa is off on his motorbike sightseeing

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Although Vietnam is traditionally a Buddist country, Vietnamese students love to celebrate other kinds of holidays as well.

Special days like Valentines day or at Christmas time can be lots of fun for everyone to enjoy.

Usuually on Christmas Eve, the main road around Hoan Kiem (in the centre of the city) is bustling with heaps of motorcycles, more so than during the day, and cafes and restuarants can be really busy with people enjoying the night by going out to eat something.

Classic Vietnam movie

A gorgeous, slow moving visual movie with an amazing, intoxicating soundtrack. For the visual sensuality of this film alone, it is worth viewing.

Train to Vietnam - Music by the Rudies

Train to Vietnam by the Rudies

Exploring Hanoi by motorbike

Crossing the railway tracks I take an interesting photo of the main trunk line that heads into Hanoi.

A picture is worth a thousand words they say....

Picture taken by Dahn Blanchard

The markets

There are a lot of markets and fresh fruit stalls around Hanoi, even fruit on bycyles!!

The best thing about this town is that you can always buy something 24/7 but

if you're out on the streets you'll have to brush up on your bartering skills.

I remember one guy who first arrived over here, and on his first day walking around Hanoi he bought a postcard at a shop for 50,000 dong.

He looked happily satisfied about his first dealings with the locals. 'I just bought a postcard for 80 cents' he proclaimed proudly enough.

'No you haven't' I said '....you've just bought a postcard for 8 dollars!

'Oh' he replied with a pained look in his face.

'Don't worry about it...' I said '...when i had my shoes shined the other day it cost me 20,000 dong...instead of the normal 2,000'

You can call it a learning curve if you like, but we've all been there-that feeling of being ripped off!

Sometimes if you look like a 'tourist' you're going to pay 'tourist price'

For me personally I wasn't used to haggling either, coming from a western style country with fixed prices..however you do adapt.

I certainly improved over time ,and now i am pretty used to bartering, and of course the locals now treat me more like a local!

Photograph by Dahn Blanchard on behalf of Louie-Thomas

'Me Xanh' (brown coloured fruit) and 'Man' (plums) - Me Xanh (brown coloured fruit) and Man (selection of plums)

Me Xanh is an interesting fruit.That is the brown coloured one in the cart. No English name can be found for it at present. Any ideas?

I haven't seen this kind of fruit in the West before either, so it's not used much outside of Vietnam, Asia.

People tend to eat this fruit raw, and sometimes they use it for cooking in soups. In taste it is a little sour.

The other fruit that can be seen in this picture are the green/yellow plums.

In Vietnamese they are called 'Man'

Quite yummy to eat!

Photograph taken by Nga Blanchard for Louie-Thomas

Doing business in Hanoi

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Photography by Louie-Thomas

Highly recommended dvd.

This is a special Vietnamese movie with some beautiful music

Door to door sales lady wheeling her clothes rack

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Pushing her clothes rack, she is selling door to door from street to street.

At closer inspection this makeshift portable clothes rack sits attached to an old pram that she is able to push along.

What a cool innovation! However whenever you ride the streets of Hanoi you are almost bound to bump into something new or entreprenuel!

Photograph taken by Dahn Blanchard on behalf of Louie-Thomas

Need a florist? - She even does door to door

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This young lady goes around by bycycle to find her customers, sometimes she knocks on our door.

Photography by Louie-Thomas

Three on a bike

I think the most I've seen on one bike over here is about 6.

Exploring Hanoi can be fun

Photograph taken by Dahn Blanchard for Louie-Thomas

Bia Hoi (beer) or Bia Tuoi (fresh beer)

In Hanoi there are many Bia Hoi and Bia Tuoi places to visit (like street bars)

The word 'bia hoi' is a place like this where you would go to drink cheap warm beer from the keg. (Pictured above)

Personally I prefer to visit 'Bia Tuoi' instead which means fresh lager, and it is a little colder, as it comes from the barrel.

On a hot evening it can be fun just unwinding on a small plastic stool, watching the traffic speed by.

If you like to check out 'Bia Hoi' or 'Bia Tuoi' look out for the signs

Photograph taken by Nga Blanchard for Louie-Thomas

Tea can be so refreshing

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A cup of cha isn't too far to find

The famous B52 signpost on Doi Can Street. - Interesting relics from the war can still be found! Near this signpost is the B52 Victory musuem

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The musuem along Doi Can is well worth seeing.

I suspect there are not many places arpound the world where you can touch, feel and even pick up some of the wreckage of a B52.

However when i did that, that was back in 1999.

Some years later that had all changed.

The B52 has now been enclosed within a glass container at the musuem. I guess it was to stop some of the tourists taking pieces of it home with them, and also for the protection of what remains.

Address: No.157, Doi Can Street

Ba Dinh District

Hanoi

Postal address:

City: Hanoi

Zip code:

State:

Country: Vietnam

Web site: www.btlsqsvn.org.vn/He_thong_bao_tang_chi_tiet

Contact:

Phone: 04.8237075

Fax:

Opening hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 8:00 - 11:30

13:00 - 16:30

Our flat below at (Lake) Ho Truc Bac - This is a beautiful spot not far from the old quarter

Our flat was on the third floor, with balcony and views overlooking Ho Truc Bac.

Rent was cheap enough (late 1990's-2000s) and the lakeside road was hardly used because it was mainly a dirt track with a number of barricades that blocked most of the traffic from going past our place, so it was a fairly quiet and a serene spot.

Almost 'overnight' things just got busier...the road eventually became tarsealed and suddenly it stopped being this 'sleepy' part of town and turned into a bustling precinct. It became 'totally accessible' for the average motorbike, or car to drive along as well.

A large supermarket soon opened up nearby, and then an Embassy moved into the district, which of course was bad news for us

because our landlord decided to increase our rent too.

Of course, a teacher's rent is never going to compete with what an embassy is prepared to pay per month.

Ho Truc Bac still remains a very beuatiful spot, although much more busier today than i remembered it being you will still love the mad rush of it all!

THE HISTORY OF HO TRUC BAC

As for the history of the lake, that too is quite interesting, particularly for Americans and Vietnamese.

This is where Senator McCain was shot down over Hanoi during the war,

he parachuted down into lake Ho Truc Bac.

Apparently McCain got tangled up inhis parachute cord and would have drowned in Ho Truc Bac lake if it had not been for Mr On, a Vietnamese peasant, who came out of his air raid shelter, and swam out to rescue him.

As the story goes, Mc Cain had nearly sunk to the bottom of the lake, and Mr On had to untangle him from the parachute.

He pulled a barely conscious McCain to the lake surface and, with the help of a neighbour, dragged him towards the shore.

Mr On then had to fight a very angry mob of people waiting on the shoreline that began to beat and stab Mc Cain out of retribution for being bombed.Fortunately Mr On was able to stop them.

In 1996 a Vietnamese government commission was able to officially confirm that Mr On was indeed the rescuer.

It appears ,according to several sources,that Mc Cain did not know anything about being rescued by Mr On, and he was only later told of Mr On's bravery many years later.

Mr Chuck Searcy a former Vietnam Veterran who lives in Hanoi, is also in charge of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Fund and he was the person who managed to bring McCain and Mr On together for an arranged meeting in 1996.

How the story goes,

Chuck Searcy receieved a letter from Mr On.

Basically I am paraphrasing here, but it goes on to say something like this,

'Dear Mr McCain.

I am the guy who pulled you out of the lake and I have followed your progress over the years. I wish the best for you and your family and I hope some day you will be president of the United States.'

Chuck Searcy thought the letter was endearing and decided to send the letter over to McCain's office in Washington.

When Mc Cain came to Hanoi in 1996 as he was the senator closely involved in rebuilding US-Vietnam relations

he agreed to meet Mr On.

McCain listened to him and embraced him, but there was no dramatic response. He just nodded, and said, 'Thank you very much,' and gave Mr On a little Senate seal.

Although McCain appeared to believe Mr On's story, it was one he would later seem to completely ignore in his autobiography, when in 1999

McCain went on to write a 'boy's own style' kind of narrative about his days in Vietnam that gave his account a steely edge to it, and most notably established himself as an American hero.

It is ironic though that Mc Cain's refusal to acknowledge Mr On's heroism at the same time is likely to fuel other, more damaging allegations that McCain exaggerated elements of his PoW ordeal in Hoa Lo prison.

Phung Van Chung, 70, who was a Communist Party official at the time, claims McCain was quickly singled out for softer treatment, adding: I found out he was the son of an American admiral, so the top people wanted to keep him as a live witness so they could use him for negotiations.

There was no further contact between the two men and when Mr On died in 2006, an email was apparently sent to McCain's office requesting a message of condolence for the family. There was no response.

Sources Vietnam News, and Daily Mail UK

The Minsk

When you're off roading....the old Soviet bike is reliable, and cheap to buy

The Minsk was often described as the rural workhorse of Vietnam's economy and more associated with countryside folk.

Today the average foreigner living in Vietnam has lovingly bought into this popular concept of a an ex Soviet bike that is hardy, cheap and reliable, and easy to drive when off roading,

The Minsk Club - Staying in Hanoi for long? This is one club worth joining

In celebration of ex Soviet motorbikes.

'Chiseled from steel, welded with rust and camouflaged in mud, the Minsk is the sweaty workhorse of Vietnam's rural economy. The Minsk will get you where you want to go. It's tough, cheap to buy and simple to fix'

The most popular bike for foreigners to use when travelling out to the more rugged terrain of Vietnam

What's this guy selling? - Don't ask....I've got no idea

When driving around Vietnam one can see many strange sights.

All kinds of exotic things come into view...

tool kit man - Forget your homeware stores this man has got it all!

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This salesman sells all sorts of tools, and accessories. I note that he also appears to sell men's belts too

If he doesn't have the 'part you want to buy' on his bike, he'll go down the road and get it for you...no fuss!

All kinds of Posters are seen around town - Propaganda art was very big during the war years

I love the old posters around town. If you would like to buy one to take home, check out the propaganda art shop for some great posters!

In Hanoi, visit the old propaganda poster shop - If you want to buy an old propaganda poster visit this shop in Hang Bac

There are several old propaganda poster shops to visit in the old quarter of Hanoi.

You can even have portraits done on yourself too. Just ask around.

The Friendship Village - The Friendship village was set up by Ex Vietnam vets to look after families afflicted from wars and agent orange

This is the main charity that our designer company 'Louie-Thomas' supports in Vietnam.

In May of 2008 I discussed with Don Blackburn, a former Vietnam veteran himself, who is a member of the American Committee for the Friendship Village Project, about working with them as our main charity.

Today it iis now a living community near Hanoi and now has ten family houses, a health centre, a school, professional education classes, a kitchen with a biogas system, organic fruit and vegetable gardens, animals and fishponds.

Central city Hanoi - Ho Truc Bac, Ho Tay and Hoan Kiem-lakes to visit around Hanoi

Some places to type up when you google search...

a/ Hoan Kiem (this is the central lake and the heart of the city)

b/Ho Truc Bac (this is another lake close by)

c/Ho Tay (one of Hanoi's larger lakes, which makes for a pleasant drive. In English Ho Tay is called Westlake)

Book recommendation - A classic by Graham Greene

Great books on Hanoi

If you need any 'info' about Hanoi please let us know

Guestbook Comments - Thankyou for stopping by. I hope to build this lens up and add plenty of more info soon

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am in Hanoi right now and these pictures are so familiar. One of these streets is so close to where I stay.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am in Hanoi right now and these pictures are so familiar. One of these streets is so close to where I stay.

    • profile image

      BruceAlan 4 years ago

      Definitely different than America

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Lovely!

    • Louie-Thomas LM profile image
      Author

      Louie-Thomas LM 5 years ago

      @PaulaMorgan: Wow! So great to get your feedback. Thanks.

    • PaulaMorgan profile image

      Paula Morgan 5 years ago from Sydney Australia

      I spent a week in Hanoi last October and really loved the city. Love your photos :-)