July 4: a morning tour of Hanoi by rickshaw was a visual and olfactory experience! We toured the city’s Old Quarter aboard bicycle rickshaws called cyclos. In this part of town we found each colorful street devoted to a particular craft or ware. We were pedaled amongst the quaint French buildings along Shoe Street, Silk Street and Banner Street (to name just a few), and ended at historic Hoan Kiem Lake, the social center of Hanoi, where we were transferred by bus to Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (a small and unimpressive experience).
After a very hot and humid morning we enjoyed lunch and a rest in our beautiful Sofitel Metropole Hotel. Michelle, George, Tom and I braved the hussle and bustle walking to the Old Quarter shop and find a local bar for a beer. Apparently, the locals prefer to have their little shops (first floor store front of their homes) over office work. Many shop owners make just enough to get by. Their social life includes coffee, lunch and tea breaks with friends sitting on little chairs in a circle right on the sidewalk to visit. This set-up adds to the challenge of walking the sidewalk and streets—not to mention dodging the huge volume of cars and motor bikes dashing around you. Slightly scary on your first outing!