Vietnam is changing fast, but the old ways are still clinging on, when it comes to travelling around.
Time was, the only way to get around Hanoi was by bike and by cyclo – the cycle rickshaw. The latter has slowly been reduced to a bit-part, more for tourists than locals, but the bicycle is still king in many towns and cities. While there’s a lot more private traffic than there used to be, you still cross roads – at your peril – through swarms of clanking two-wheelers and buzzing mopeds.
Walk out boldly, say the guidebooks. Just keep going, the two-wheeled wave will part. Amazingly, it does and you will reach the other side, unscathed, albeit with heart in mouth.
Out in the sticks, gaily painted wooden boats chug down muddy river and tributaries, and on country roads deliveries are just as likely to be made in hand-pushed carts as in vans and trucks. The family motorbike is often pushed into service to get to and from market – I’ve seen three generations on the same bike, laden with bags and a chicken or two in a cage for good measure.
All this will change – is changing – but, now and then, the 21st century still seems a world away in the backstreets, country lanes and waterways of Vietnam.