When the tuk-tuk driver dropped me at the airport in Luang Prabang, Laos, for a flight to Hanoi, I thought he brought me somewhere else. I asked him “Where is the airport?”. “Here”, he said pointing to the small building we stopped in front of. And from here, a new adventure started in Vietnam!
Hanoi is a fascinating city, with old architecture and a rich culture with Chinese and French influences.
First evening in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. I stay in the Old Quarter, Hanoi’s historic heart – a busy area with people cooking and enjoying dinner on the sidewalks, sitting on small chairs around a small table. Scooters are everywhere, honking and competing for the right of way.
And there are the vendors we all remember from movies: the women with conic hats carrying two bags or bins – hanged on a wooden beam, suspended on one of their shoulders. They sell fruits, vegetables, sweets and goods. The next thing I know is a scooter with a man and a woman stopping by. The man tried hard to “sell” the woman to me. At the same time a woman selling bananas passed me the carrying pole, shouting: “photo, photo”. And a man selling Vietnamese caps wanted me to try one. At the end I bought bananas.
The streets on the Old Quarter have the trades grouped together: one street for shoes, other for clothes, one for sweets and one sells funeral stones (mostly in black with photo of the deceased).
I am lucky to have a guide in Hanoi. Her name is Thao. She doesn’t speak too much English, she only smiles. Thao is a graphic designer, painter, photographer and Vespa aficionado.
Hanoi is a city of arts. Very impressive is the “silk painting” – it’s like an embroidery but much better. Art can be created from small pieces of egg shells or sea shells glued together on frames or vases.
The Vietnamese love photography, especially to take artistic and romantic photos of their girlfriends or wifes. The women wear nice traditional or modern clothes and the photo shoot takes place in parks or around the temples.
My mood is strange these days. I got a weird cold. Coughing and my head is like being inside a bag. I tried traditional medicine, a.k.a. ‘Hanoi’ vodka to no avail. Maybe I should try the snake wine! It is good for “body fortification”.
“Hi, my first day here. How is Hanoi?” – I asked the Spanish tourist.
“I didn’t have time to look around. I got Yellow Fever…” – she answered, sipping from a bottle of medicinal drink.
My coughing worsened, so I went to the doctor. I was prescribed antibiotics. And here I am, in the country with the cheapest beer in the world drinking only water and tea…
The 1,000 years old Temple of Literature was dedicated to Confucius and later became a university for mandarins.
Ho Chi Min’s embalmed corpse is in holiday now in Russia, for three months “maintenance” (at the time of this post).
Updated 2010 post