Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We have arrived in Hanoi and are, frankly, terrified when we walk down the street.

Death (or serious injury) by Scooter is a common problem here, and one can see why. The scooter is a popular mode of transport everywhere in South-East Asia but the popularity of these machines must have surely reached its zenith in Hanoi. The scooters here are so numerous they swarm at you like hive-fulls of angry giant bees.

Unlike Laos, Hanoi is no place for chickens. In Laos there are many urban chickens that roam freely about town. Street chickens, I suppose you'd call them. They are quite bold (recall, if you will, the rooster that came begging for my steamed bun), and have no hesitation in crossing roads filled with trucks and scooters. (It is well known that The Other Side of the Road is a popular destination for chickens, and that their almost religious compulsion to reach it makes it a sort of Mecca for them.)

The only sign of chicken life I saw on the streets of Hanoi last night, however, was fried chicken feet being chowed down by people squatting between parked Vespas of Death on the footpath (scooters take precedence to pedestrians, even on footpaths!). They were no doubt the feet of pilgrims that had been struck down while on their dangerous pilgrimages.

But it is not merely the Vespas of Death that make the streets of this city more terrifying than a pissing contest in an electricity sub-station. Last night my travelling companion was bitten by a dog. It was one of those small, hairy white and yappy creatures one often sees in the handbags of Parisian bourgeois. The fact that there are so many of these running rabid around the streets of Hanoi sinking their teeth into people's tender calves is yet another terrible legacy of French colonisation in this region.

My poor companion was obliged to visit two hospitals and have injections in her derriere. She is reacting badly to the rabies vaccine (rabies is still common in Asia), and insult was added to injury when she was also attacked by a Chihuahua on the way back from the hospital today.


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