I'm not sure what I'll say once I go back to Bangkok to spend more time there, but at least right now I like Hanoi better.
It's like a corn kernel, stuck in my teeth. I can't quite wrap my head around the city yet but I like it. In the old city where we're staying you see a city that is covered in crowded shops and stalls mixed in with overflowing food markets (snakes for sale as snacks kept in tires) on the narrow streets. If you go south 4 blocks, however, you'll find Hoen Kiem lake which has ancient vietnamese temples and wide open boulevards packed with motobikes riding past the overbearing buildings of stalinist architecture that made its way through China. Another 3 blocks South East from the lake and you're in the French Quarter -- wide boulevards lined with old French-Colonial villas and coffee-and-pastry cafés. The French demolished a few of the oldest temples in Asia to build it all, unfortunately.
On every single sidewalk you'll see groups of people gathering together to drink, play games, or eat -- right next to the ladies in wide-brimed, rice-paddy hats selling chestnuts and pineapples. I'm having trouble making sense of it all, honestly, but it's eternally fascinating. I suspect it would take years and years to really get under the skin.