Many factors distinguish the bright city of Hanoi: from the scooter-lined pavements to the news read over loudspeakers multiple times a day.
What truly allows Hanoi to stand out, however, is the manner in which the locals spend their time.
From sunrise to well into the night, the streets are lined with people.
Whether selling goods or simply chatting to pass the time, a majority of each civilian’s life is lived outside.
Gangs of fashionable young men occupy every street corner, perching on motorbikes or sitting on tiny stools.
Cigarettes are smoked, food is consumed, music is sung and some lucky girls might even catch a wink or smile.
Symbolic of Vietnam’s collectivist culture, whole families sit around at street food restaurants, often opening up below their apartments, with children and the elderly equally as involved.
These stalls are open well into the night and seeing those of primary school age still active and playing late in the evening is not uncommon.
Every corner boasts an array of food, from steamed buns to pho, fried tofu, assorted meats to fresh fruit and vegetables; all a must-try and usually available for less than a few dollars a meal.
It’s a culture shock to many Westerners visiting the city to see residents often sleeping outside, resting on cyclos, behind shop counters, perhaps with piles of clothes for support.
It’s a strong indication of the safety felt and trust exercised between Hanoi’s residents.
A culture like no other, Hanoi is recognisable certainly for its architecture and tourist experiences.
However after digging a little deeper and immersing oneself in the life of its main streets and back alleys, visitors will create for themselves an experience they’ll never forget.