Me and Chairman Mao
  Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom.
As I mentioned before, there are a lot of motorcycles in Hanoi. A lot. For those of you just joining us, "a lot" in this case means three million. For four million residents. How that works I have no idea, since it seemed like every single motorcycle had at least two, sometimes three or four or even five people on it, so I guess there must be a lot of scooters just sitting around in people's garages or something. Or maybe I'm just making a broad, sweeping generalizations about an entire city and its people based on looking around it for a few days four months ago or so. One of those two, anyway.

Whatever. Either way, there are a lot of motorcycles, and--not surprisingly--some of those motorcycles are taxis. Except, of course, they don't call them motorcycle taxis, what with speaking Vietnamese and all that: they call them xeom (she-ohm, I think). If you don't want to walk, they are definitely the easiest way to get around the city. And sure, it means you're paying some guy you just met--and who has probably been following you around for at least two or three minutes asking "Xeom? Xeom? Xeom?"--to drive you at speeds that start at reckless through the chaotic streets while you hold on as tight as you can while thinking that you really probably should have worn a helmet, but at least it's really cheap, so that's something.

Anyway, we took our first xeom ride about ten minutes after getting to our hotel, since they didn't have our reservation--apparently, even though we made a reservation and then confirmed it with them, since we didn't arrange for an airport pickup and were crazy enough to actually get a taxi to take us there, they assumed we weren't coming--so we had to spend one night in a sister hotel, which they took us to via xeom. (Our bags came on a third xeom, which was nice since those things are hardly big enough to hold two people, let alone two people and a filled-to-the-brim rolly-bag.)

Sadly, I was too out of it to think about taking a video of that first ride---it was just about dinner time, so the streets were packed and there were at least three times I was sure we were going to crash--but the next morning, after a night's sleep (I left out the "good" part on purpose, since the A/C hardly worked and I spent at least half the night sweating through the sheets), I made sure to have my camera ready for the ride back to our first hotel. It wasn't quite as exciting as the ride over--which was good since I only had one hand to hold onto the driver with, what with my other hand holding the camera--but, if nothing else, it will give you an idea of what the streets of Old Town Hanoi look like. Or at least what they look like at 7 AM or so on a random Sunday morning:

Previously, on my vacation:
Hanoi: the Streets.
Hi Jason, stumbled upon this while googling Vietnam as was captioning my own vacation photos. Just spend a couple of weeks there on a part cycling/part normal tourist tour. Reading your posts was a wonderful recap of my own impressions. Loved the trip, the people and the endless uses they find for bikes and scooters. Thanks for sharing.
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