Morning in Hanoi
November 16th, 2009 by Kate

We arrived in Hanoi before the sun that day.  Our taxi drove the empty streets as if the traffic lights didn’t exist.  He deposited us on the shuttered front stoop of our hotel in the old French Quarter. Vietnamese people of every age were emerging from the long passageways between the buildings in their pajamas and heading towards the lake in the center of the Quarter like it was Mecca.  The morning was cool, and the entire city had turned out for their morning exercises.  In mass, they walked around the lake.  The young people chatted with each other as they walked in small groups.  The elderly were the most serious about their exercise – arm waving, clapping, flapping, twisting and backwards walking were just a few of the many variations of calastenics in their routines.  Did I mention that everyone was in their pajamas?  There were probably ten to fifteen thousand people walking the lake.  I have never heard that many people be so quiet.  The sun finally broke the tops of building, and as if on que, everyone headed back up the spokes of streets that radiated from the lake and disappeared back down their building’s passageways. 

 Phoebe pointed out that it was the first time she’d seen the sun since Japan a month earlier.  Tess noted the blue sky and how pretty the palm trees looked against the candy colored buildings.  I thought to myself how great classic French architecture looks in the tropics, and then felt bad for about a second recalling the horrors of French Colonialism that influenced the gorgeous balconies and wrought iron flourishes on each building.

 Very shortly after, the roll-up gates of the shops opened one by one, and the motorbikes emerged down the ramps in front of every store.  Our hotel gate opened with a clamor, and no less than five motorbikes were wheeled out of the lobby and lined up on the street in front of the stoop we had just been sitting on.  A sixth bike came forth with a rider – a beautiful Vietnamese girl in a pretty pink “ao dai” – she was headed out to the market to get fresh baguettes and fruit for the hotel’s breakfast buffet. 

 We were so tired from our overnight train we decided to forgo breakfast and bought baguettes, mangos, and bananas from the old ladies on our corner.  The baguettes were still hot.  The cost 15 cents each.  The two perfect mangos and a bunch of bananas set us back another 35 cents…

 I have only been in Hanoi for 45 minutes and I love this place…

3 Responses  
Anita (Nana) writes:
November 19th, 2009 at 9:55 pm

You have brought back fond memories of my trip with Greta to Bermuda many years back.(Before my sister’s 25th anniversary.) I think Greta and I, were the only folks on the bus, as the motorbikes were ridden by the entire Island natives.
And Tessa, Nana said the same about our last weeks trip down to Big Pine Key. It was paradise. Pure blue sky, warm sun shinning, and the palm trees swaying in the breeze. And pappy’s friends could not get their boat’s motor to go, so the men fished off the No Name Key bridge. Mr. Ron, and the men were claiming the office told them the BEST bridge fishing in the Keys!

Cricket Bourget writes:
November 20th, 2009 at 7:59 pm

LOVE the mental picture of the locals creeping out in their jammies for a morning lakeside constitutional and exercise session; and your other wonderful post and pictures of the lovely architecture, descriptions of the geography, the local lifestyle…. (and Jeff’s beer discoveries!)…. anxious to read more. Things I never learned growing up in “the Viet Nam era,” when all I ever heard about was the political discord associated with the country. You’re like my own personal Anthony Bourdain, Kate! “I’m such a fan” of the blog, and so glad you’re sharing it with your legions.

Ed Childers writes:
December 7th, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Kate, Jeff, Tessa and Phoebe;

Thanks, Kate for the post card, and especially thanks to all of you for maintaining the very interesting and well written journal. I don’t think I’ve missed a day of your experiences, but I’ll reread the whole thing later this winter anyway.

A couple of thoughts come to mind when you talk about the prospect of some of the folks you meet along the way coming to this country. First and foremost is the disapointment they’ll experience when they discover that Tessa and Phoebe are not representative of their counterparts here. If ever the President were to appoint roving teenage ambassadors to represent this country, they’d have it hands down. (Is my bias showing yet?)

We’re having one of those cherished rainy days so the past couple of hours have been devoted to riding along with you. I’d love to be there, but if I had been, I would probably have escorted the girls along for the tiger feeding, – that just reflects the cowboy mentality I’m stuck with.

Happy Trails, dear fiends,


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