This year, IRRI celebrates its 50th, UPLB its 101st, Manila its 439th anniversaries. All these pale in comparison to that of Thang Long (now Hanoi) as it celebrates its 1000th anniversary. Hanoi is ancient!
(We missed the celebration by a few weeks!)
We arrived at the Noi Bai International Airport as the sun cast a reddish glow over the Song Hong River (the Red River). Along the way to the Royal Gate Hotel (where the delegates from the International Network for Quality Rice and the Grain Quality Lab were staying), we couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the traffic flow. There seemed to be order amid all that chaos because there were no road mishaps despite all the tailgating, the swerving, and the counter-flows we've observed.
(Here, the motorcycle is king.)
The distance from the airport to the hotel was about 30 km according to the cab driver, and took about an hour via the freeway (Quoc Lo). We were supposed to attend the welcome reception for the International Rice Congress; but since we missed the afternoon shuttle bus to the Vietnam National Convention Centre, we opted to have dinner close to the hotel... in the process, we had our first taste of pedestrian crossing, Hanoi style.
(We had to cross streets with these bikes swerving to avoid us... like boats avoiding rock outcroppings in a river. I just didn't have the guts to shoot while in the middle of traffic flow.)
Crossing the street was nothing short of daunting. However, the experience proved to be invaluable as we were planning to go beyond the hotel–convention centre–hotel routine. We wanted to explore this city and no amount of traffic could stop us from walking (and shopping, for some). By the time the conference had ended, I thought everyone got used to it.