Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Hanoi, Vietnam, 2006

November-December 2006

I went to Hanoi via Manila-HK-Hanoi route. This is a little bit shorter than Manila-Ho Chi Minh-Hanoi route since there is no direct flight from Manila to Hanoi. My purpose was to attend the follow up seminar on "Sustainable agriculture in an environmental perspective". The latter was a 7-weeks training that I attended in Sweden in 2003. That seminar was sponsored by SIDA for 7 years, with participants from Asia, Africa and Latin America. This follow up seminar is for Asian participants from different batches.

We were 22 participants in that training from different Asian countries. We stayed at Melia Hanoi Hotel, where some Presidents, Prime Ministers, and top government officials of Asia-Pacific countries stayed during the APEC meeting a week before. The Vietnamese government really spent a fortune in hosting that APEC meeting. There were many signs/streamers/boards of "APEC in Vietnam", "Welcome to Hanoi", from Noi Bai International Airport to Hanoi City (40kms. distance).

Hanoi (and most Vietnam cities) are still teeming with motorbikes. I read then in an English Vietnamese newspaper that Hanoi has around 400,000 cars and 3 million motorbikes! What's fascinating is that there are no traffic lights on intersections (except in the city center) and hundreds of motorbikes, bicycles and cars are moving from different directions all at the same, and very very little accidents happen, and there are few "traffic policemen". That’s "free market" in people and vehicle mobility, and there seems to be only 1 rule -- go anytime you want, just don’t bump anyone. And so far it's working!

People have to move by motorbikes because there are no trains/LRT/MRT there. There are buses but not too many. No "jeepneys" and tricycles either, like we have in the Philippines. Sidewalks are generally wide (except in major shopping areas), plenty of big trees on the roads. So there's less air pollution than in Metro Manila. Also, there seems to be no potholes in the streets, the road system is smooth. Maybe one can say that Vietnam's Public Works bureaucrats are more straight and less corrupt than the Philippines' DPWH and LGUs?

I noticed a few development since 6-7 years ago -- like more tall buildings now, though not as many as in M.Manila and other Asian cities. But a friend and fellow participant from Ho Chi Minh city (south vietnam) said their city was seeing more high-rise buildings than in Hanoi.

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