Monday, July 23, 2018

The Occupations of Vietnam: The Streets of Hanoi

Hanoi from our hotel room


This city of 7.5 million is overwhelming for a newcomer. The text below is pulled from my journal while I was in Hanoi.

Cheese tea!  Iced green tea topped with a layer
of white creamy froth that had the tang of Jack cheese.

Near the cheese tea shop (near Hoan Kiem Lake), I walked past hundreds of business people eating lunch on tiny plastic stools from street vendors. I turned to take a photo of a shop and watched a business woman in a short skirt and black heels riding a scooter get hit by a black sedan. She wobbled, then fell to the street to her right. I watched her shoe fall off and her bare foot and leg were pinned by her scooter. It was terrifying. Seconds later, she was standing and talking with the help of passersby. The driver of the car that hit her was stone faced and barely interacted with her. I walked on. I never got a photo of the shop, as I didn't want to looks as if I was trying to photograph the accident.

The area was chic and much less chaotic than the old town, where our hotel is located. I wandered into a "house paint" area, with sacks of colored pigments at the ready.

One of many shops in this district of Hanoi,
near the Temple of Literature,
where families sold pigments for paint.

The sidewalks of Hanoi are made of dusty red octagonal bricks, many of them broken or missing. One cannot walk far on the sidewalk with out being forced into the street by rows of scooters parked or businesses spilling all the way to the street. I saw scooters exiting and entering an alley three feet wide over the sidewalk. Cramped, overcrowded, hot, sensory overload. The heat slays me.

Hanoi temple
The walk to dinner took us through puddles and remnants of a flower and vegetable market, past countless people, smells, and scooters. After dinner we encountered a busy nightlife street packed with people sitting on blue plastic stools drinking beer. The street was lined with thin tall bars and restaurants, many with hawkers trying to pull us in.

Hanoi backpacker district nightlife, I only wish I'd caught
the tiny ancient stooped woman selling gum out of a
blue plastic tub to revelers with my camera.

Hanoi nightlife

Motorbike mania, Hanoi

My birthday dinner, just how I like it,
didn't have to make any choices because they make
 one dish and they make it well.

We dined for my birthday at Cha Ca La Vong, a family restaurant in business since 1871. The name of the restaurant is also the name of the one dish they make. It was perfect and delicious.

Fish + dill + green onions = delicious

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

Monsoon at the night market. 

Bicycle fruit vendor in front of our hotel. Many older women sell fruit,
vegetables, and rolls on the streets, either from their bikes or out of a plastic
bowl or tub.
Speaking of selling stuff... the people of Hanoi sell on the ground floor of their building and live upstairs. The neighbors to our hotel sold water, liquor and cigarettes from a tiny stand the size of a doorway. Behind the small counter sat their couch and television, where they lounged. I saw this scenario again and again on the streets.

Bun Cha, Hanoi's signature dish, at Huong Lien - President Obama ate here
with Anthony Bourdain.
Huong Lien is a tall skinny restaurant with many floors, where we dined on Bun Cha, grilled pork and pork patties in a vinegar and sugar broth with lettuce, garlic, and peppers. The flavor was transcendent.

Caphe su da (Vietnamese iced coffee) - strong and
delightful - a moment of respite on a hot day

Hanoi gate

In front of Ho Chi Minh's tomb, Hanoi

Pink plumeria!

Across the street from where I tasted Bia Hoi -
Hanoi's famous fresh draft beer.
It was cheap, ice cold, and sweet - perfect for for a hot day.

Railroads go right past these Hanoi residents' homes. Ladies squatted in the tracks
(their front yard!) picking through plastic bowls of herbs.

Ngoc Son Temple on and island in Hoan Kiem Lake,
 in central Hanoi. The image represents the the turtle of
myth who emerged from the lake with a sword.

HANOI HANOI HANOI You scared me at first and intrigued me. Then I decided I didn't like you. Then you wooed me with your crumbling grandeur, sidewalks I could walk on and a breeze. I found a  plaza with french style cafes where I could sit and caffeinated and cool down simultaneously. I could breath a little bit.

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