When a scooter is riding towards you, keep walking
At first sight, it seems like there are no road rules in Vietnam but, in fact, they are just very different (sometimes the exact opposite) of those that exist in Sydney. Crossing the road is daunting, especially as the scooters’ constant beeping adds to their aggressive air. On busy roads, you have no option but to slowly inch your way across (silent prayers are optional). One member of our group, Marlena, favours a different to technique that I like to call ‘ignorance is bliss’; the idea is that you simply close your eyes as your cross the street. This works quite well once you’re comfortable with the fact that scooter drivers do actually ride quite slow and are (usually) skilled enough to dodge you.
Hanoi (and Vietnam in general) has a lot to offer, but to make the most of it, you will have to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t second guess yourself. The streets of Hanoi are so alive, so packed with goods and services to try. Eat street food, get your hair cut and your shoes polished, all without having to walk through a shop door.
Haggle til your heart’s content
Haggling (or bargaining) is a central part of the shopping experience in Vietnam. Most shops don’t display prices and every shopkeeper inflates their prices in anticipation of bargaining wars. To accept the first price you’re offered is to make yourself known as a gullible foreigner.
Take a local with you
Exploring the streets with Derick allowed us to the try the best, out of the way food shops in Hanoi, which are well-known to locals but rarely touched by tourists. It also allowed us to gain a greater understanding of what was happening around us. He was excited to explain the culture and history behind statues, paintings, and artefacts. The history of Vietnam came alive in stale museums and on bustling streets.
– Jacinta, Poverty Reduction through Microfinance program, Vietnam, January 2014.