Tag Archives: motorbike

Ten things I’ll miss about Hanoi

Pix Hanoi in the rain

Hanoi, always full of atmosphere (Pix: Alison Bate)

Liz, one of my colleagues at work, asked me last night what I’ll miss about living in Hanoi. It’s the people I’ll miss the most when I leave next month, of course.

Tall and thin houses in Hanoi – to beat the tax on the width frontage

Tall and thin– to beat the tax on the width frontage

But, in a strange sort of way, I’ve also grown to love the following:

* Motorbikes in the living room

* Jockey-cap motorbike helmets designed to fall apart at the slightest accident

* Tall thin houses

* Impossibly-thin motorbike cops

* Throwing the garbage in the alley for the recycle ladies to collect

* Cafe sua da – good iced coffee for under a dollar

* Fresh pineapple for sale with all the hard work taken care of – cut up and ready to eat

* Fresh fruit shakes made out of bananas and pineapple

* Students with the same name in one class: three Thao’s, three Hoa’s, two Nguyen’s, etc

* “When my grandpa was a boy, He was a lot like me…” and other Family and Friends gems

* And, of course, the rat in the photocopier

No. 132 passes the motorbike test in Hanoi

Pix Alison Bate on Yamaha

On my Yamaha Nouvo on Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi

By Alison Bate

I’m finally legal, after five months of zoom-zooming around Hanoi.

Yesterday, I went to pick up my Vietnamese motorbike license, after a tortuous but entertaining journey.

Like nearly everyone here in Hanoi, I’ve broken rules that I wouldn’t dream of flouting in Canada. Ridden my Yamaha Nouvo daily without a license and without insurance; carried passengers without a helmet; and occasionally even ridden the wrong way down main roads. That’s what Hanoians do, and it’s simply the best way to get around the city.

It’s nerve-wracking at first, driving on the crazy, noisy no-rules streets. But after a while, you get used the rhythm of the roads and learn to never look back – only ahead.

I’ve never been stopped by the police and if I had been, the advice was simple: pretend you don’t speak any Vietnamese. As most of the police don’t speak English, either, they are very reluctant to stop westerners or Tays, as we are called.

But now, after endless paperwork, getting a Vietnamese car license, a battery of photos, a medical and a figure-of-eight driving test, I’m finally legal.

Ten days ago, I joined four other colleagues at Language Link for the final big hurdle: the practical test.
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