Life in Hanoi as told by its locals

Life in Hanoi as told by its locals

Eight people from different walks of life describe their days in Vietnam's chaotic capital

A city is its people. Here's a tiny glimpse of eight lives intercepted as they go about their daily business in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital that's home to more than 6.5 million people.

 

Su, 50, cyclo rider

Cyclo rider“I’ve been taking people in my cyclo for 24 years, since 1987, when I bought my cyclo for VND1.5 million (US$75).

"This is still the same one I bought back then.

“I have had to take many fat people in my time, even 100 kilos sometimes. The fat ones are mostly foreigners, but I can manage because Hanoi is quite flat.

“I earn around VND150,000-200,000 (US$7.50-10) per day, but sometimes I earn nothing because there are no tourists around.”

Trang, 25, cafe owner

cafe owner, Hanoi“Everyone these days is looking for cappuccinos and other Western-style coffees with pretty patterns on the foam.

"But I still like the Vietnam-style coffee -- iced coffee with milk.  My customers are students and office workers, who like to relax after a day at work.

"I have a kindergarten design for my café but the youth want to be more independent and they want to keep their privacy.  I’ll be doing more live music in the future and will also give coffee lessons as people want.”


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Au, 32, gold trader

Gold trader“People don’t trust you in Vietnam if you just go to them in the street and try to sell them gold.

"They think it must be fake. So I set up a professional shop, with professional staff, and people trust that. It’s a new, commercial route to market.

“But there are deficiencies in the law. The government wants to control the whole gold market, but it’s very difficult.

“People are getting richer in Vietnam but just because someone drives a BMW it doesn’t mean he is rich. He may have taken a loan for it, just so he can look good.”
 

Tham, 22 and Hung, 28, engaged

married couple“We’ve come from the outskirts of the city to get married in Hanoi. Just coming here is such a romantic experience for us.

"We do not usually come into the center of the city, so just being here is a special occasion.  We love the lakes in the city and will be going for a romantic dinner at a local restaurant tonight.

"Hanoi is a perfect place for romance.”


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Vy, 61, tea seller

tea seller“I’ve been selling tea for 20 years to the workers of the restaurant boat here at West Lake.

"The lake used to be much larger but now it’s cleaner and more beautiful.  My husband died 20 years ago, so I had to sell tea to support my four sons.

"Nothing special happens in my life. Every day is the same. I love my tea though, which is why I sell it.”


 

Thyenien, 38, taxi driver

taxi driver“Traffic in Hanoi is mad. I’ve never been in an accident but I have seen many.

"Recently I was working at night and I saw a car was going too fast. It crashed into another car and the people died.

“I have never gotten lost in Hanoi even though I have only been a driver for two years. I am most comfortable taking Americans and Europeans around.

"The Koreans and others from the East are very demanding always telling me which way to go.”


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Cuong, 52, durian seller

Durian seller“I was a farmer outside of Hanoi, but I came into the city five years ago to sell durian.

"Mainly Vietnamese buy my fruit. I don’t eat durian, because if I ate it I would have nothing to sell.

“I buy my fruit from the local market here and each day I make around VND50,000-70,0000 (US$2.50-3.50). I’m old now so I will be doing this until I retire.”
 

Cuong, 25, car salesman

Car salesman“These days people in Hanoi love to buy Range Rovers, Hondas, Toyotas and four-wheel drives.

"They are reliable in Vietnam’s weather. Our best-selling make though is Lexus.  More rich businessmen are also coming to us now for Porches and in the last three years very expensive cars like Lamborghini and Ferrari have also seen demand.

“In our best month we sold 20 cars. With my salary and commission I make around VND6 million (US$300) per month.”


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As senior producer for CNN Travel, James commissions stories, writes for, edits and manages the homepage of the site. 

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