My most and least favorite parts of Viet Nam

I'm sitting on a boat right now, maneuvering its way through the thousands of rocky islands here in Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam. The only sounds I hear are the hum of the engine, the chirping of birds, and the constant tropical sonic background of high-pitched insect noises. Here's a video of my surroundings right now:

This is a really beautiful place that reminds me of Chinese landscape paintings. The Chinese word for landscape is 山水, or mountain + water, both of which Ha Long has in abundance.
This is the 3rd country I've visited in Southeast Asia. In all of them, I've been lucky to experience both the rush of urban life and the charm of more tranquil places. Nowhere have I noticed this contrast more than here in Viet Nam (Linh insists that I spell it as two words). Ha Noi is a bustling, lively city whose inhabitants get up early and drive like madmen. Navigating the streets of Ha Noi one constantly has to be alert enough to avoid death, but not so jumpy that one is jumping every time someone sounds a klaxon, lest one be jumping like a ping pong ball being used in the gold medal match at the Olympics.
The traffic in Ha Noi is made up mostly of motorcycles, with bicycles and pedestrians roughly tied for second, and automobiles making up the not insignificant smallest portion. In the countryside, one must add buses, trucks, and water buffalo to the list.
For the most part, people in all of these groups ignore traffic laws, assuming that they exist. It could be the case that the lanes and lights are suggestions helpfully provided by the government, or perhaps the Vietnamese put them in as decorations in a public beautification campaign. Whether or not this is actually true, it may as well be.
People dive orthogonally into streams of traffic, generally displaying only slightly more hesitance than I show when eating ice cream. The general strategy, at least for anything smaller than a car, is to just find a gap big enough to allow one to get into the traffic stream, but not necessarily big enough to allow one to cross immediately to the other side of the road. Once one is in the middle of the road or intersection, one must move slowly enough to allow the onrushing traffic to avoid a collision, until one eventually reaches the other side.
This strategy places a lot of faith in the alertness of other drivers. I'm not always sure this faith is warranted, as I have seen many, many Hanoians driving motorcycles with one hand whilst simultaneously talking on the phone, holding a package, or hoisting an umbrella.
Walking in Ha Noi, or at least down the narrow streets of the Old Quarter, is very stressful for two reasons. Firstly, the blaring car and motorcycle horns seem to combine with the heat and humidity to make me feel tense. Secondly, one has to walk in the street, since sidewalks are used for displaying merchandise, seating people at restaurants, burning offerings to ancestors, and most importantly, motorcycle parking. Being honked at and nearly run over every few minutes is my least favorite thing about Hanoi.

A very cheap and common way of getting around Hanoi is to pay a man to let you hop on his motorcycle. It's like a very informal taxi service, except there are no companies, just free agents who yell at persons who looks like they don't have a motorcycle of their own. Here's a video of Linh and me riding on the back of a motorcycle through Hanoi. I don't think it really captures how crazy the experience was, but hopefully it'll give you a flavor of it.