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The Essence of Hanoi

Capturing the busy streets of Hanoi Old Town

Hanoi is a city saturated with colour and movement. From the moment you step into her chaotic streets this city stimulates all the senses, fusing old and new, east and west, the bizarre and the mundane.

The constant sound of horns and hawkers reverberates off the tall thin buildings that crowd the narrow streets. Goods spill onto the footpaths, vendors into the street and wholesale is carried on the back of motor scooters. Through a seemingly quiet residential backstreet runs a trainline, barely skimming past the buildings and completely oblivious to pedestrians. It's a perpetual effort to manoeuvre through the ebb and flow of activity.

Within 36 ancient alleyways, food markets and trades are carried out in the street as pedestrians, scooters and basket carriers weave amongst them in the rain, giving Hanoi's old town an earthy, gritty texture. Like the city's sugary sweet doughnuts that taste of the sweaty hands that make them.

In the french quarter, the streets widen into tree-lined boulevards of opera houses and presidential palaces. Less established, but just as grand, are the modern high rise complexes and super malls with billboards alluding to an idyllic lifestyle.

Cross the Red River bridge and buffalo feed on the median strips, fishing boats ply the red river and the 18th generation of potters, silk weavers and carpenters continue to make their trade in the villages on the river bank. All the time, Hanoi's rural life is within site of the city's skyline and under the haze of it's smog

As night falls, neon lights add to the energy of the street. In the old town, as sections are closed to traffic, people fill the void, chattering, laughing, eating and drinking. Hundreds of little red and blue stools litter the streets as dining turns alfresco. Street vendors fire up grills and the air is warmly scented with toasted corn, coriander and coal. Shoppers swell the night market; youths on scooters gather at the roundabout with its times square style bill boarding; while lovers promenade under the hanging lights of Hoan Kiem Lake.


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