What’s the greenest way to get around Vietnam’s capital city? Queue the electric car – Vietnam’s newest option for getting around – without the smog! This is one resident’s guide to making the most of them.
As a current expat living in Hanoi – the sometimes smoggy but always charming capital of Vietnam – since I arrived, I tend to forget to pop on my tourist hat and take part in that side of this energetic city.
But not long ago, I was lucky enough to have two of my best friends arrive with their traditional Vietnamese conical hats on, who were in full swing of utilising every tourist attraction going. By the time I finally met up with them, I was promptly informed of what was next on their tourist to-do list: an electric car tour. I must admit, I was dubious.
Regardless, we set off one afternoon bound for the starting point of our journey. After some wandering with a map and a few dead ends, we arrived at the start of the tour near Dong Xuan Market (where apparently, you can buy anything from a toad to a mattress) and negotiated with the driver shuttle us around Old Quarter for a mere 15,000 VND – roughly 75 cents. Off we headed, cameras at the ready, into the streets that, for the past 1,000 years, have been the centre of Hanoian life.
The Silent Chariot
Most electric buses in the city are entirely open on both sides – great for photos, but begs a strict “hands and feet inside the car” rule. Hanoi’s streets are truly chaotic – beeping, buzzing, rumbling and shouting. Every manner of sound possible in a city surrounds you in a constant cacophony of noise.
That’s what made the experience on board this strange vehicle such a shocking revelation. While the motorbikes and cars around us shuddered and buzzed, our own bus was silent, whizzing through the streets without so much as a “whir”. While my travel companions had their faces firmly planted to their cameras, I sat back and wondered: “Is this the best way to get around the city?”
In Vietnam, tourists tend to draw some stares. We’re louder than we mean to be – taller, broader and more obvious. But in the streets, scooting along the road at the rate of traffic in a silent scurry, we were more invisible than I remember ever being.
So continued our day weaving through the Old Quarter streets aboard our silent chariot. Through the silver-shop lined Hang Bac, the vibrant and bustling Ma May Street, and even through a strange and narrow street selling nothing but bamboo ladders. While I watched other tourists battle against the onslaught of impatient pedestrians and motorbikes on the pavement, we had our feet kicked up and our cameras ready. If ever there was a great way to get a handle on the Old Quarter from arm’s distance, this was it.
Onward to Hoan Kiem Lake, and we found ourselves watching the sun glisten off of the water. Vietnamese couples dressed to the nines in their wedding attire posed for photos, old men battled it out over a game of Chinese chess and groups of “aunties” danced to choreographed aerobic routines. We were watching the life of an Asian urban park unfold – and we never broke a sweat getting there.
And so it was decided – the electric car was added to my preferred list of travel options while exploring Hanoi. Though I have a soft spot for wandering around the Old Quarter by foot (pit stops and detours are much easier this way), there’s something to be said about the relative comfort of a vehicle. On board an agile electric bus, that vehicle isn’t just good for you – it’s good for the environment, too!
The lesson learnt was this: In a frenetic city like Hanoi, there’s more than one way to get around. Whether you’re looking for some adventurous alternatives to city transport, or you’re on the hunt for something less adrenaline-inducing, Hanoi has it. For the happy medium, the electric car is certainly on the top of that list!
There are plenty of ways we get around Vietnam’s capital city. Work with us to build a customised Vietnam tour with the perfect combination of walking, driving and even flying to explore this fascinating country!