Do not anticipate a tired ambience. It is a dynamic city on the move, and the ambitious citizens in Hanoi are motivated to make up for lost time.
Modern Hanoi has an increasingly assured, “can do” atmosphere about it and a buzz that’s even starting to match Ho Chi Minh City. There is more money about nowadays and the more wealthy Hanoians are ready to flaunt it in the evermore refined eateries, cafes and designer boutiques which have exploded all on town. Hanoi boasts wine warehouses and glitzy, multistorey shopping malls; some seriously high-priced cars cruise the roads and beauty parlours would be the hottest fad. Everyone else zips about on motorbikes rather than the deeply fashionable cycle. The authorities are attempting – with mixed success – to control the anarchy with laws to control traffic and control construction jobs that are unsympathetic in the Old Quarter, coupled with the ambitious twenty-year development strategy which aims to ease congestion. Nonetheless, the city centre hasn’t entirely lost its old world appeal nor its distinguishing nature.
As pedestrians and motorbikes ebb and flow through the Old Quarter’s centuries-old madness that is commercial, hawkers in conical hats ply their products while other locals breakfast on nip drip-coffee or noodles. At daybreak on the coasts of Hoan Kiem Lake, t’ai chi sessions that are synchronised occur beside goateed grandpas considering their next chess moves. In Lenin Park, disorderly skateboarders have replaced choreographed military drills, while the smart young things in Hanoi fete in cosmopolitan eateries and pubs.
Property development and traffic mayhem increasingly endanger to subsume Hanoi’s powerful mix of Parisian elegance and rate that is Asian, however a beguiling coexistence of the medieval as well as the modern enthrals.