Chào buổi sáng Việt Nam!
Terrible Flights and Fear of Death!
This old bird as you might have noticed wasn’t keen on Beijing and never really got the bad taste out of her mouth, even in Xi’an.
Having the dodgy connection in Hong Kong (couldn’t check-in online from Hong Kong, another really oppressive thing about Chinese Firewall and secrecy and snarkiness) I couldn’t really get excited till I got on my Jetstar plane, and then got excited in totally the wrong way, as in terrified, when the plane started lurching around. It pitched and plummeted and people started looking around for reassurance with chalky white faces. I leaned my head against the seat in front and let out little voiced “Oh god, oh god, oh god” while swallowing down a Diazepam. It was merciless and carried on for a good ten minutes. I whimpered and white-knuckled the seat. I should have missed this flight and stayed in Hong Kong for fuck’s sake. I shouldn’t have been so obvious about how I hated their dictatorship I snivelled. I made a lot of promises in that ten minutes but hey, that’s what an atheist does when praying.
You wonderful, wonderful, gorgeous, fabulous people. You saviours and merciful lot with your lovely everything. I wanted to kiss the ground. The taxi was so simple and whizzed a rather stoned old bird to her little hotel in Hanoi downtown (the Diazepam you lot, keep up). Threw my cases in my room and went to the little but perfectly formed restaurant opposite. The atmosphere here was soooo different from in China. Welcoming and pretty and very beer o’clock, before a fabulous and very cheap brunch having a superb herb duck and a bowl of morning glory (best greens ever)
Then rush hour comes and the bikes, all forms mind, scooters (the most) motorbikes, with sidecars with carts, with prams anything you can imagine being cobbled together in ingenious ways. Few cars on these busy streets.And the noise? Wow, my ears, add to that a lot of hawking of goods in very shouty voices. All the narrow pavements are blocked with parked scooters nearly all of the time, so you literally have to risk your life by climbing into the charging traffic all the time.. It’s crazy and funny at the beginning. For my first afternoon and evening, it was alright, I was just so ecstatic about being out of China, however, it does become a bloody nuisance! I would discover the real rush hour the next morning on the way to the museums.
Hanoi’s Old Town is chaotic as are the electrical cables and houses. As I arrived on a Sunday I still hadn’t realised about the mad scooter traffic so I just thought that the pavements were of no use due to all the parked vehicles and that didn’t really matter. Wrong. They multiply in front of your eyes on a working day. You have to be pushy while crossing streets as somehow, there is a system to it and somehow it works, as long as you step out firmly to what would appear to be your death in front of a herd of speeding scooters. It was one of the biggest problems that old birds mentioned all the time when talking of Hanoi’s centre. The traffic terrified them.
TOP TIP: I loved this place but it was very nippy and grey when I was there. I was really glad I had kept my Russian clothes. I was unlucky for the Halong Bay trip too. I had expected some bright days but you’ll need warm clothes at this time of year in Hanoi and the North, it’s bizarre as down the coast it was murderously hot. You’ll have to follow the mixed weather packing regime!!
How can a person not love a city centre with a zone called Beer Street? It came just after all the specialist shops in their own zones (ceramics, spices, metalwork, jewellery, bamboo, fabrics etc). When I ventured there one evening I was not disappointed, (although I weirdly had a rum and coke for no apparent reason instead of beer) there is a huge buzz there and I think people stay up there all night. Loads of cheapo restaurants and cramming close together on plastic stools as little carts and the ubiquitous scooters went through the impossibly small space between the tables. I stayed aloof at a bar which looked suspiciously like a prostitute club, took my drink outside to view the crammed scenery at which point a guy came up wanting to clean my shoes, polish and brush ready in his shaking hands I meanly declined. They were canvas trainers.
Although too busy for my taste, I appreciated the fabulous aromas of spices and their delicious seafood plonked on very unglamorous plates and plastic bowls. The shouting of orders and crush of the crowd (possibly picking pockets) and the jolly mayhem that is Beer Street.
Throughout Vietnam I would find this wild exuberant love of life. I never got to more remote areas as I had done in Cambodia so can make no comparisons, but certainly in the towns it was a buzz.
On the cultural side they are brimming with fantastic art and museums and an old bird like me really appreciated the day I had spent solely on their incredible paintings, sculpture and ceramics which I will share in my next post.
OVER AND OUT FROM HAPPY REBECCA X