Hanoi is an assault on the senses. I spent a few hours here at the begining of the Vietnam leg of the trip while waiting for the night train to Danang but I didn't hit me as much then - maybe because things quiten down in the evening. But I think its mostly that I am making my way here after spending the last couple of days in Ninh Binh, which have to count as the most amazing, beautiful and peaceful I have had on the trip so far.
I wasn't even staying in the town - more like ten kilometers outside of it with the most amazing landscape outside - rice paddies galore with lime stone karsts abounding in the background. I saw more shades of green than I could care to name. I went motorbiking one day - my adorable motorbike driver spoke no English and I had to use more French than I have in years, but he was lovely and utterly amused that I wanted to stop everywhere to take pictures - I didn't take nearly enough (some three hundred or so), mostly because after a while it just seemed pointless and photos just couldn't capture anything, really. We made our way through back alleys of villages, riding on the soil boundaries that demarcate the paddy fields, to ponds where people were fishing for escargots. It was bliss. I didn't see another tourist for miles, I was the only one staying at my guesthouse and the only sounds I heard apart from the patter of rain and the rustle of the rice fields, were of the ocassional motorbike.
And now Hanoi is just noise and chaos and full of touts and American accents. I think I just need time to recover and I might like it, but if I could I would be on the next bus back.