The streets of Hanoi are teeming with shops selling all kinds of things. Like most Asian cities, the shops tend to be bunched together according to what they are selling – you’ll find streets entirely devoted to bookshops or ironmongers or tailors or stamp-makers, or almost anything else you could imagine. It seems very alien to us, because we’re used to the idea of supermarkets, where you get everything under one roof. It means that to buy things you’re popping all over the city, to get to the ‘shoe lace’ street or whatever.
The other thing that makes shopping difficult is the pavements, something I’ve described before. But here’s an extra bonus feature – motorbikes inside shops. Its because there are a few streets where people aren’t allowed to park their motorbikes on the pavement, so they park them in shop doorways, or the shops themselves. This chap is trying to get into a clothes shop, squeezing between two Honda Dreams casually parked in the door – and out of sight there’s another pair to their left, even further inside the shop! It’s so bad, that sometimes you can’t get into the shop at all, until somebody moves their bike. And what makes it seem worse is that most of the bikes seem to belong to staff – could you imagine this at Sainsburys? Its bad enough when the staff get all the parking spots near the entrance, but at least they don’t park in the entrance.