Hanoi’s Cycling Comeback ….maybe

Hanoi is not like it used to be. Talk to anyone who is familiar with the classic Hanoi of the 70s and 80s, and they will lament the loss of the quiet, bicycle-filled streets that were characteristic of this ancient city. Up until the early 1990s everyone used to commute by bicycle, but they’ve since been replaced by motorbikes as the predominant form of transportation. (Just as in every city we’ve visited aside from Bangkok). But that’s not to say that no one rides bikes here anymore. As soon as we crossed the border from Laos to Vietnam, we immediately started seeing more bicycles. And as we descended from the tumultuous, tortured mountains of western Vietnam, the number of cyclists increased inversely with the landscape’s slope, until they reached maximum concentration in the poorer cities surrounding Hanoi. Thankfully, this means that there is no shortage of bike shops to help out the stranded bike tourer with a broken rim. Topping that long list of shops is Mr. Quann. Continue reading

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“Nobody bikes in Bangkok”

The stark contrast between Cambodia and Thailand was evident the minute we walked into the air-conditioned passport control office on the Thailand side. Outside, a large sign warned that anyone possessing drugs will be sentenced to life in prison or executed. But after 2 weeks of eating ants, crickets and snails we were ready for something different, even if it meant giving up the ‘happy’ pizza (look it up). Fighting the habit of 14 years of right-hand driving proved to be difficult and we narrowly avoided oncoming traffic before swerving to the left-hand side. As a general rule, car exhaust is slightly cleaner here. However, the extra volume of traffic more than compensates for the stricter air-quality standards and we were quickly overwhelmed by the constant stream of diesel trucks and buses belching black smoke. Continue reading