Mapping Hanoi: Pyongyang but a bit better

Posted by CactiStaccingCrane on 5 February 2024 in English. Last updated on 7 February 2024.

Imagine if you wanted to undertake a project like this for Hanoi… unfortunately it can be discouraging from the outset. – Koreller

Around early 2023, I’ve mapped rural areas of Hanoi and determined to never map urban areas of Hanoi ever again because of the crappy imagery. Three things have happened:

  1. Be (a Vietnamese ride-sharing company) is currently working on a unpublicized project of integrating OpenStreetMap into its app. In that process, the company has uploaded a lot of 360 images of Hanoi and Saigon to Mapillary. I don’t need to survey and walking around inside alleyways like an idiot anymore.
  2. Watching and studying Koreller’s edits to Pyongyang help me to develop techniques for mapping with crappy imagery.
  3. Esri’s has updated Hanoi imagery, making it just a little bit clearer to see.

I decided to fix my neighborhood first. At the beginning of my OSM journey in 2022, I turned this:

To this:

Which to be real is not that impressive. I made a very big mistake of trying to gulf down everything in the block at once, mapping the alleyways, houses, POIs and trees simultaneously and plunging myself into the burnout hole. This time, I divided the kilometer-square city block into smaller city blocks and strictly adhering to the mapping process:

  1. Check the street names on Mapillary
  2. Map the houses only with satellite imagery
  3. Add house numbers and double check house geometry
  4. Micromap trees and small stuff visible on Mapillary
  5. Then, and only then, map the POIs.

By rigorously following this cycle, I was able to map around half of the city block in less than 11 days, including a 2 day vacation/break with my family. By far the most time consuming portion of the project is mapping the POIs and dealing with inconsistent house numbers. Anyways, here is the final result (on OSM):

Experience do play a large role on why I mapped Hanoi so fast, but I think another big reason is the Mapillary coverage. A city block that might take a full day to survey now only takes around an hour of scanning around on Mapillary. This is an advantage that Pyongyang mappers can only wish to have ;)

Unlike what Koreller has done to NK, I haven’t mapped Hanoi in its entirely. I expect this to be a multi-year, even a multi-decade project. But I’m very proud to play my part kickstarting the Great Hanoi Housemapping Project. Around two weeks ago, ItsLouisAnderson has mapped POIs and addresses in a few city blocks, and currently both of us are mapping the Vietnam National University and old communist-style apartment buildings downtown. With the extensive Mapillary coverage in Hanoi, it should not be that hard for people outside of Vietnam to contribute towards mapping the city.

My journey on OSM has proven that it’s never too late to map your own neighborhood. And if your city is so well mapped that you have nothing else to do, do consider mapping Hanoi instead :)

Location: Làng Cốm Vòng, Phường Dịch Vọng Hậu, Cau Giay District, Hà Nội, 10085, Vietnam


Comment from slice0 on 6 February 2024 at 02:54

looks great! good job

Comment from matheusgomesms on 6 February 2024 at 14:42

This is great, congrats! What works for me is to just map a single type of object, at once, for example, just starting with building outlines. After that, go for addresses and then POIs. Focusing in just a single object makes my mapping much faster, and you can use appropriate tools for them (JOSM plugins, for example, or EveryDoor for addresses/POIs)…

Comment from Koreller on 6 February 2024 at 21:29

It’s so cool to see a beautiful story like yours! And you’re really right, in detail it’s much better than Pyongyang! It’s a beautiful piece of work, I’m blown away!

I’ve never really had the chance to work on addresses, and only very occasionally on POI shops. The result you’re showing is excellent in every way!

I’m glad to see that the zone method works for you too, although I have to admit that I’m surprised by your successive layer method, I have to say that I didn’t have the same problems as you! Even though, looking back, I realise that I do things a bit like you do, in two layers: I’ve done all the buildings and roads, now I’m going to add the street lamps, trees, grass areas and sidewalk footways. But I still use (more or less) my zone method.

In any case, I think I’d still use it for Ashgabat :D. Guess where I’ve mapped where I haven’t yet :D I didn’t start Ashgabat long ago but I’m planning to get serious about it soon!

Comment from CactiStaccingCrane on 7 February 2024 at 10:35

I think part of the reason why I do buildings first then POI is because the POIs are usually more “temporary” than the buildings itself. Most of the shops shown are self-established businesses and they pop in and out all the time. In the past, I got easily distracted by the seer amount of things that I need to map, but by mapping one type of element at a time I feel less overwhelmed.

Comment from 快乐的老鼠宝宝 on 12 February 2024 at 01:57

I think part of the reason why I do buildings first then POI is because the POIs are usually more “temporary” than the buildings itself.

I agree with this, I only dare to draw POIs within the range where I usually live, because I make sure I pass by them from time to time and confirm that they are still open, but there is nothing I can do further away.

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