Rachel Flotard: The Madness of Hanoi

February 9, 2010

Rachel leaves behind sweaty Laos and Vietnam for frigid Korea, and remembers why she travels. Heading back to the States, the creative juices are flowing once again...

I don’t really know if it’s day or night at this point. I’m in Seoul, Korea, absorbing what was the last of my journey through Laos and Vietnam. This morning I was wearing a crappy T-Shirt in Hanoi, eating street side Pho Ga at a small plastic table about a foot off the ground the city alive with horns. It’s seven hours later and nine degrees in Seoul. Planes are being de-iced. This could be Moscow.

Hanoi, Vietnam. I have never felt a sensation like being in that city. If I had to describe it, on my first day, it felt like you multiplied the population of Manhattan by 100, ripped out all traffic lights and stop signs, tore off every muffler/tailpipe, then put each person on a moped and said have-at-it. It took me days to really understand how (or get the courage up) to cross the street. It is a non-stop rushing river of motorbikes, cars, and people flowing into traffic, and you are expected to walk in. It’s a total act of faith, and a rhythm that seems impossible to understand until you begin to feel it.


How millions of people learn to navigate the terrain and each other is a total mystery, but it works. You start by pacing slowly forward, inching ahead (with purpose) as the swarm rushes around you. You never go backwards. That seems to be the rule. If you do, you die. It’s terrifying and exhilarating. The helmet law was very recently instituted, and damn if it’s not a good idea. I felt like I needed a full body helmet just to eat my soup.


I would often dream about this kind of environment when thinking about a foreign rock tour. What it would be like to go play Japan. I have a song written about Tokyo, hoping this next year will be my year. In 2003 we released our first record, “King Me” on an independent Japanese label. To see your album art come back from the manufacturer written in Japanese might be most beautiful/coolest thing on earth. I only have ONE copy. It sits on my desk, and I daydream over it. Now, even more, I have stockpiled motivation built by this trip. This was an incredible dive back into what’s important for me. My Friends, family, and trying like hell to stay alive and healthy in a world that can be difficult and unpredictable.


So as I get ready to board my flight back to Seattle, I’m already tracing the window of my plane with my fingertips, wishing my amps were in the cargo hold, and our destination was anywhere but down.

What’s going in the world of Visqueen?

Comments (1)
  • Nguyen Phan Anh Quan I really love the way you describe our capital. I am a Vietnamese, although I don't live in Hanoi ( I am now stuck in Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest city of Vietnam:)) but I've known a lot about it through friends and relatives ( some of my friends are Hanoi's and my father was there some times), I've read zillion of articles about it but yours is cool! It seemed that you were too hurry. When you come to Hanoi, you must forget about its traffic madness or the extraordinary rush of life that you're in. Just relax and buy a guide book and then enjoy everything of this wonderful city. And besides, if you can make friends, it's gonna be perfect if you're with a friend enjoying visiting this city. If you're not careful, you can be trapped by someone unexpected. However, if you have any intention of visiting Ho Chi Minh city, I can tell you everything about it! It's quite ( I means, hugely) different from Hanoi! Thanks for reading my comments, it seems to be so long:) Wed Feb 10, 2010
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