My wife and I have been living in Hanoi now for over five months. After having lived in Japan for nine years, KOREA for four months, Kunming, China for four months and Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia for two months each we’ve decided that Hanoi is our favorite city of all (when factoring in cost of living—and probably regardless of cost-of-living). I don’t agree with the current traffic safety assessment. I walk everyday all
Over the city—on average, 10 miles a day and in every direction. I’ve personally witnessed six or seven motorcycle accidents and been hit from behind by a motorcycle while walking, sustaining painful injuries requiring months to heal. I have had direct contact with three other people involved in motorcycle accidents. Love the city and still walk every day, but safe...NO.
Meanwhile, I do agree with most of the cost factors I see listed. What amazes me is the assessment that there is “bad nightlife” here???! What?? If all you’re looking for is a place to get drunk and pick up women, maybe. But what I love most about the city is that nightlife is evident in every neighborhood, coffee shop, cafe and on every sidewalk every evening. People are out relaxing, eating, drinking and socializing everywhere I go every night, and in every neighborhood—not just in the “entertainment districts”—which almost always bore me, anyway. So I guess it depends on what kind of traveler you are.
Further, this city is resplendent with interesting architecture, historical buildings and monuments, temples, lakes and the rivers, and has a fantastic international community. I’m Caucasian but have interacted frequently with people of all races, and most frequently with the local Vietnamese community. While unfortunately it does seem that Hanoi is not freer of racism than New York, London, Tokyo, Sao Palo, or any other major city in the world I certainly feel that is less racist than many places—just my personal perception. I’ve only spoken with one person in five months (a beautiful Indian woman) who talked about feeling discriminated against, and that was in reference to getting an English teaching job. Yes, it does seem that a white face, even with non-native English, can get hired as an English teacher far more easily than an Asian or person of other racial heritage, even if that person speaks English almost like a native—as this woman did.
Ultimately I can only go by my own experience. People have been kind, mostly extremely honest, helpful and friendly and it is the Hanoians themselves who have been mostly responsible for my love affair with this city. The delicious coffee and food and interesting places to walk with no fear of being attacked, accosted or robbed have only helped. Now, if they’d just do something about the air pollution—second worst in Asia by many accounts.