Pavements in Hanoi are not so much sidewalks as sideparks.
On visiting other countries I find myself suffering pavement envy. On a work trip to Taipei I was soon shaking my head in wonder at their wide boulevards. Imagine the strolling possibilities in the cool autumn and colder winter. In Hanoi you can never stroll. Instead you scamper, dodge, duck and weave, continually stepping up and down as you go.
This car in Nghi Tam doesn’t appear to move much – alongside it is another vehicle, essentially making the Nghi Tam pavements unusable. Beyond this, pavements are dumps for the assorted building materials required for the cyclical tearing down and building up of the neighbourhood. Up the hill and round the corner is a BMW garage that parks its entire fleet on the pavement opposite – seemingly without any trouble.
Meanwhile, when my wife’s cafe want to put out a couple of chairs and table in front of the shop, still leaving plenty of room for walkers, she’s liable to have a chair or two snatched by police. The interest in furniture from law enforcement is a strange one. I’ve been in a late night bar when police have come in and taken all the chairs. Everyone just carried on drinking standing up – as if it was the sitting down that was breaking the law.
Elsewhere pavements right around Westlake are broken up every three feet with trees – providing welcoming shade but less welcoming obstacles. To pass each one you have to step back down onto the road.
The car situation is only going to get worse but then so are all “situations”. This is an increasingly overloaded city, nothing is going to get better on its own. Seems like as a first step the Hanoi authorities need to sit down and actually work out the concept of pavements. When is a pavement not a pavement? When it’s a car park?
Once they’ve decide what they want pavements to actually accomplish that’s what they can start to enforce.
A year and a half ago, around the time of Hanoi’s 1000-year anniversary, one of the last pieces of road finished to link up the round Westlake route, was the outline of Nghi Tam’s mini-peninsula.
As it was slowly completed and pavements put in place, we waited for landscaping of the adjacent earth. It never came. Slowly local gardeners have taken over the land. Some of it was already cultivated but more has been claimed for herbs, veggies and even flowers.
It’s not all pretty, there’s a fair smattering of litter and the inevitable building materials. There are still those who walk their dogs here and seem happy to let them foul the areas that others are trying to cultivate. However, with the recent rain that’s brought a freshness and greenness to the city, it’s never looked better.
I used to be impatient for these spaces to be “completed” by the local authorities. Now I’m far happier watching this green-fingered urban land grab.
The last pic is a garden in the lake. I was told that these were pollution-filtering reed beds but my guess is that’s just wishful thinking. Unless others know differently, I think it’s just another garden.
Rest of the pics are here taken today in Nghi Tam are here.