The first five minutes of our cab ride from the airport were a brief introduction into the chaos that defines Hanoi. Cars and motorbikes weaved back and forth, leaving inches of space between them, while our cab driver drove down the breakdown lane of the highway, inches from the concrete center barrier, as if it were meant for traffic. I knew immediately that Hanoi would live up to its reputation for being in a near constant state of pandemonium.
As we drove into the historic Old Quarter, the streets were engulfed with vast numbers of people walking in every which direction with seemingly little regard to the motorized traffic. Every few feet there were fires of what we thought was trash burning in the streets (we later found out the fires were offering to the gods). Stepping out of the cab we felt the thick, hot air and realized that even at 9 PM there was no break in the heat. Hot and tired, I went to bed that night glad we only had one full day in Hanoi, as I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the city.
Luckily, our full day in Hanoi changed my opinion of the city for the better.