Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi is a blend of chaos and culture. The city of 7.5 million can be dizzying to explore, with its narrow streets and constant motorbike traffic. Shops, restaurants and even barbers spill out onto sidewalks, rendering a pedestrian’s life difficult at times. But if you can look past the initial shock that many experience when visiting this city, you’ll discover that Hanoi’s charm is found in its disarray.
Armed with my film camera, I spent a few days exploring Hanoi’s old quarter and its neighbourhood along the train tracks. Life in Hanoi exists proudly on the streets, making it a dream for photographers. An elderly woman clips her nails outside. Laundry hangs on power lines. Entire families commute on a single motorbike. Men exclaim in triumph and defeat as they play Chinese checkers on the pavement.
It’s also a city of street food – especially at meal times, the air is scented with grilled pork and phở. On virtually every corner, locals hunch over colourful plastic stools and slurp noodles bought from neighbouring carts. The food quality and portion size for such low costs (meals starting at $1 or sometimes less) is astounding. Unsurprisingly, street food is a popular meal option Hanoians and tourists alike.
Vietnamese people are generally open to having their photo taken, a trait consistent with their reputation for friendliness and hospitality. A simple point to my camera was often met with an “OK” and a smile from locals when I asked to take their photo.
What’s more, they often just continued with what they were doing instead of posing for the picture.