Monday, November 29, 2010

Electric Car Blog, Hanoi Day Trips

Hanoi new tram

Hanoi tram in the 60s - 70s

As a current expat residing in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, I have been inclined since arriving to forget to pop on my tourist hat and take part in that side of this energetic city that is now my home. I was lucky enough to have two of my best friends arrive with their traditional Vietnamese conical hats on, who were in full swing of utilizing every tourist attraction going. The first thing I was informed of upon meeting them was that we were going on the electric car tour that had my friend ever so excited. I must admit I was dubious.

Whilst advertised in the media as ‘Hanoi’s New Tram’ I was surprised to see the electric little white buses being our mode of transport for the tour. After some wandering with a map and a few dead ends we arrived at the start of the tour near the large Dong Xuan market (where apparently you can buy anything from a toad to a mattress) and negotiated with the driver to allow the three of to have our own personal bus take us around the Old Quarter for a mere 15,000 VND (33p). Off we headed, cameras at the ready, into the streets that for the past 1,000 years have been the centre of Hanoian life.

Heading into the street, in the small open sided bus, takes you into the heart of the Old Quarter, with the voiceover explaining the uses of the streets and facts behind why such streets took their names. We instantly got out my guidebook and tried to work out what street we were on and what they were supposed to sell. Some of the streets have certainly kept to their name with Hang Bac being lined with silver shops, others however like Ma May seems to have a distinct lack of wooden baskets, an indication of changes to the are. We were able to spot Vietnamese women carrying their fruit loads around on traditional ‘scales of justice’ style apparatus and then had the pleasure in seeing a moped pull up next to us with three dead pigs as passengers. The driver looked at us and smiled as three extremely British girls were clearly astounded by such a sight, but to him it was just moving the meat around the city. I had only travelled around the Old Quarter by motorbike taxi I was amazed to see the true workings of the area surrounding where I worked. The sights and sounds of the Old Quarter really were astonishing, as crazy as it all seems the place completely functions.

We cruised around the streets and then headed to Hoan Kiem Lake, the sun shining on the water and the hustle of the city around the mass expanse of water seemingly so far from the hectic streets. The voiceover explained the history of the lake and we were able to spot the Vietnamese couples posing for their extravagant wedding photos around the edges of the water. After making it past the famous red Huc Bridge we headed back toward the town where we departed from the little white car leaving us to explore the rest of the Old Quarter for the remainder of the day.

I may have been skeptical to start, however I fell in love with Hanoi that little more after our tour. I embraced my inner tourist and saw what the thousands of visitors see and love. It even spurred me on and I went and purchased my very first conical hat.

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