I think I'd been postponing Vietnam so long for the same reason as China, as I didn't fancy having to arrange an annoying and expensive visa when other countries let me in with just a passport stamp. It's nicer to feel welcome than like I'm some sort of annoyance (Hanoiance?)
But I'm glad I finally got round to it, as this might be one of my favourite South East Asian countries as well as one of the worst. Great sights, fantastic food and the most mental traffic I've experienced since Cairo. Those idealised images of Vietnam you have from 1990s travel documentaries of people in conical hats getting around on non-motorised bicycles are long gone. Hanoi's population of eight million owns six million motorcycles. That means everyone apart from the kids has one, though they probably have illicit scooters stowed beneath their beds.
I didn't enjoy walking in Hanoi very much, but risking almost certain death crossing the street was still preferable to getting ripped off by taxi drivers. If these blogs suddenly cease before I get to Ha Long Bay, you know what happened. Please give my organs to the needy and let the medical students make mistakes on my corpse so they don't slip up on living ones. As a precaution, I've always had a blog post scheduled to go live in the event of my death with more details - that's normal behaviour, right?
Drivers rely so much on the horn in Vietnam, they actually felt the need to manufacture a machine gun style horn that emits multiple beeps at a single push for convenience. Maybe it's all the coffee they drink that makes them such impatient drivers, that stuff's strong
A city centre pavement
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. You can queue for hours to view his lovingly maintained body, but you can't take photos, sorry guys.
Apparently, being entombed like this was expressly against the late president's wishes. He didn't think to set out his wishes in a morbid blog post, did he?
It's good to see Lenin is similarly inspiring new generations of Communists from beyond the grave, in this case to perform amateur skating manoeuvres
More nocturnal skating escapades at Ly Thai To park
Sneaky photo inside St Joseph's Cathedral. You weren't supposed to take photos, but a Chinese couple was snapping happily away in full view of Jesus. At least have the decency to be devious about it and test His omniscience
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Some imposing building. I've been so conditioned by Hollywood to fear Communist symbols, this automatically conjured dramatic music in my head and seemed a lot more sinister than it probably was. It might just be a post office
Something nice on Hoan Kiem Lake