We recently spent a few days in Hà Nội. While watching traffic one evening, I realized I have not been writing about two-wheeling in Việt Nam – I have been writing about two-wheeling in Huê.
There is a difference.
Hà Nội is a major city – the political capital of the country with a population exceeding two million. It is well developed and booming. The traffic in Hà Nội is crazy, but it is also much more orderly than in Huê. You do not see five giggly girls pedaling down the street talking. People do not walk in the streets of Hà Nội, primarily because they can walk on the sidewalks – the sidewalks of Huê are too crowded with other “stuff” to use for walking. In Huê, it is common for people to make left-hand turns by hugging the curb in the wrong direction. That is done in Hà Nội, but to a far lesser extent.
There are a lot of cyclos in Huê – they are used for more than carting tourists around, they are a prime means of making local deliveries of goods. There are very few cyclos in Hà Nội, and they are exclusively for tourists. It is actually unusual to see a cyclo in Hà Noi.
There are a lot more cars in Hà Nội - many more, and that changes the dynamics of riding. And, there are more traffic lights. But everything ties together to make Hà Nội traffic a bit more well-mannered than Huê traffic.
Before some Hanoians get all over me and point out errors in my observations, let me say that I know many of the side streets have sidewalks too crowded for walking – that the residential streets are chaotic, and that traffic is different in the Old Quarter. I know that. Frankly, I wouldn’t ride a môto from the airport into the city unless I had a death wish. But, I also know most people coming to Việt Nam will not be going to Huê – they will be going to either Hồ Chí Minh City or Hà Nội. Keep in mind that my previous postings are about Huê and take my advice with a grain of salt if you are going to the two big cities..
Just remember Huê is not HCMC or Hà Nội – just as Des Moines is not New York City.