As we leave Hanoi for the final time we head East to Halong Bay.
Hanoi certainly leaves a memorable impression on our minds of a city dominated by motorbikes, people and devotion to their ancestors.
So many people, some five million in the city and two million in the suburbs.
Last night was Sunday evening in the centre of Hanoi, streets were crowded with people, locals with their entire families, street traders, markets and entertainers.
By the road side, families enjoy being downtown, socialising through simple interactions showing no aggression, annoyance or outward impatience.
If you hate crowds then Hanoi is not for you.. but somehow, what appears to westerners a hopeless existence is just a way of life to many here.
There are many shrines, even our guide has one in his modest 7m x 7m fifth floor apartment.
The majority faith here is Buddhism and Toaism, also known as Daoism. They worship their ancestors by giving money food and flowers to their shrines of Buddha’s and Deity.
When the incense finishes burning Huan our guide tells us they use the food themselves .. “of course!” he says.
The many motor cyclists in the city have face masks, surgical masks or nothing at all on their faces.
On the one hand you can understand that all the pollution is a good enough reason to cover the mouth and nose, but women in particular cover themselves from head to toe. Face masks and anoraks are tied tightly around their heads and faces, showing just the eyes.. arms and bodies are covered too. Our guide says not for modesty as in some religions, but here in Vietnam women crave for white skin.
As we in the West want tanned skin from white pale aneomic looking bodies, so the women crave beauty away from the sun.
Somehow the site of these characters is neither offensive, nor intimidating… perhaps because you can see the shapes of the individual underneath and the knowledge that they happily remove the coverings when they socialise.
Rules of the road exist .. but rarely followed. Some stop and wait at red traffic lights whilst many ignore them.
The majority of property widths here are all the same. The government dictates the size that each single property can be .. but some owners do have multiple widths .. like government buildings and some larger hotels.
There is definitely a willingness to please .. if you’re paying!