Cold beer at Hoan Kiem Lake and heard from my friend Nguyen that lives here in Hanoi wanting to meet to show me around the city. We will meet up in a few weeks when I get back from Hoi An. Today I walked around and around Hanoi mostly at the Hoan Kiem Lake area but also went to parts east, west, north and south. The city fascinates me with its different districts and how you can turn a street and suddenly be out of the frenetic pace of the old quarter and see wide blocks with few pedestrians.
I think that’s one of the fascinating parts of the city. Its not just one city. Its like a whole bunch of cities all compressed and laid out geographically and by walking you don’t see a gradual transition. You turn a corner where the pace of selling and buying is amazing and suddenly you find a quiet wide street with embassies and official residences. The streets are wide and it seems the traffic laws are a bit more taken. Strolling these streets there are not the shoe shine people, others wanting you to buy this or that. Its quiet and you can have a measure of time to reflect on the day. There are more up scale restaurants that I never go into and more coffee shops. Lets face it coffee in Vietnam is big business. The coffee shops dot the city blocks and I have gone in to a few when it rains. Language is no barrier to coffee. You point, they pour.
It was also a very pleasant yet warm day out today and I always work up a decent or even more sweat before I get done and I’m back at the lake. Then there is a 1.5 liter water bottle and I watch the people. I’ve come to the conclusion that most people are here on rather short visits. Maybe weeks. I’m going on my last month here. When I pay my room on Monday evening, it will be the last month in Hanoi for me but its packed with trips and getaways. I think I will miss the city that is actually several cities. It reminds me of Tokyo. When you go to Tokyo you realize its not a city but a group of districts and you can travel in a big circle and see them. The Tokyo metro subway helps with that endeavor significantly but the best way to see how Tokyo is Tokyo is by walking. Its a great city of many cities to walk in. Hanoi has a similar vibe going. Walking Hanoi means being able to be right there and see how the city changes.
The last time I went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Park, its noticeable how the entire vibe and feeling changes. If you get here, why not spend a bit longer and dust off those walking shoes. You can do the street crossings by simply watching and going. The main thing is the going. Tour guides and cyclos are only part of the story. There’s a earthy and passionate feel to cities that you have to get when you cross the street, walk down that smaller street and see the places most tourists will never get to. Small parks and schools, kids laughing. Its all there for you.
But, in the meantime, here’s some pictures of the day out. I’m getting literally thousands of photos. Perhaps I will clean up the Hanoi photos at some point and delete some. I don’t pay for the storage though so the desire to clean it up is less.
If you are a wanderer and nomad or vagabond or whatever, consider the longer stays at places. I’ve benefitted a few ways from doing that. The tourist Visas are not that hard to deal with. The things you will learn will be greater and the travel becomes so much more than bucket lists and stamps in the passport.