Sidewalks of Hanoi

I wasn’t in Hanoi long before I realized “sidewalks” is a misnomer. “Beside walk” or “alongside walk” would be far more accurate, because THAT is what you do.

Photo taken from a second floor cafe/bar.

Photo taken from a second floor cafe/bar. Check out the wiring.

Although it LOOKED like one, this wasn’t a parade. They were just getting from point A to point B, and making MY point!

Notice the "bike rental" shop on the "beside walk"

Notice the “bike rental” shop on the “beside walk”

The old quarter is quite crowded, and the Vietnamese are very industrious, so every square inch is utilized.

You can expand your retail space

You can expand your retail space

He's really pushing it!

He’s really pushing it! He’s spilling into the street.

The cases in the right foreground, less than a foot wide, are the local liquor store.

The cases in the right foreground, less than a foot wide, are the local liquor store.

What better place for food prep?  Sorry for the blurriness.  I was dodging scooters while shooting.

What better place for food prep?

You can cook dinner...

You can cook dinner…

Gather with the family for dinner

gather with the family in the dining room

Wash dishes

Then after dinner, it is as good a place as any to wash dishes

Hang with your friends and watch the traffic whiz by

Like young men the world over, the corner is the perfect place to hang with your friends and watch the traffic whiz by


Whoever manufactures those plastic stools must be incredibly rich. They were everywhere!

Hanoi on the Weekend

What do we fun loving volunteers do on a weekend in Hanoi? Well, on Saturday we took a cooking class, beginning with a visit to the local market to buy ingredients for our Caramel Pork dish.

"Get off the showcase!"

“Get off the showcase!” Bonus points to whoever can identify who said that.

We decided on a different vendor.

For some reason, we decided on a different vendor.

This guy reminded me of the lobsters in the bathtub!

This guy reminded me of the lobsters in the bathtub!

Didn't we pick these off rocks?

Didn’t we pick these off rocks?

What would the Massachusetts term for these guys be?

Slap a little paint on these shells, and you’ve got yourself an ashtray!

Our teacher had excellent English. In addition to cooking, he taught  us important Vietnamese  phrases.

Our teacher had excellent English. In addition to cooking, he taught us the Vietnamese equivalents for “cheers” and “bottoms up”.

If cooking gets too strenuous, I'm coming back here!

If cooking (or drinking) gets too strenuous, I’m coming back here!

Miss Shelley and Miss Sally,  who both answer to Ms Shally

Miss Shelley and Miss Sally, super chefs

Our waiter was happy to keep us supplied with free flowing wine

Our waiter was happy to keep us supplied with the “free flowing wine” mentioned in the brochure.

On Sunday, Jeannie, Sally and I made a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda, which we subsequently learned is Vietnam’s Mecca. We had thought that a boat ride on the river, into the mountains, would be a respite from the energy and dynamism of Hanoi. And had we visited during the summer, that is exactly what we would have experienced. Instead, we figured that it would have been more peaceful had we stayed in Hanoi, because it sure seemed like everyone in the city decided to visit the Pagoda with us.

Beautiful scenery; quite a bit of traffic on the river.

Beautiful scenery; quite a bit of traffic on the river.

A Vietnamese Starbucks

A Vietnamese Starbucks

I thought there were a lot of boats on the river; I had NO IDEA how many boats were already there!

I thought there were a lot of boats on the river; I had NO IDEA how many boats were already there!

Vietnam has no shortage of shopping opportunities, and religious sites are no exception.

Vietnam has no shortage of shopping opportunities, and religious sites are no exception.


It is difficult to capture the sea of humanity at the Pagoda.  As it got more crowded, it was impossible to photograph.

It is difficult to capture the sea of humanity at the Pagoda. I took this photo before it got crowded. Later, I couldn’t get my arms up to take a picture without bopping people around me.


One of the lunch options

One of the lunch options

There's a lot to be said for vegetarianism.

There’s a lot to be said for vegetarianism.


After lunch, we headed for the gondola. It didn’t take long for us to realize we were the only non-Asians in the very long line. During the one hour wait, the children used the opportunity to practice their English. Everyone wanted to say “hello” to us. Once again, I was impressed with the warmth and friendliness of the Vietnamese.
image
You jump into and out of these.  They don't stop for passenger entry and exit.

You jump into and out of these. They don’t stop for passenger entry and exit. And if you take too long, the attendant gives you a little push to send you on your way.


A sweet young French girl who was on our tour decided to walk up, and arrived at the top before we did. (I wasn’t kidding about the long lines!) She reported that the way up was very hot and crowded, with gift and food stands lining the road the entire way. We know exactly what she meant. We SAW the rooftops during our gondola ride. So much for fresh mountain air.
image
Sally and Jeannie, smiling on the boat ride back.

Sally and Jeannie, smiling on the boat ride back. You can’t keep those intrepid travelers down!

Hanoi

Finally, the blog and my location are in synch! Mike and I returned to Hanoi on March 1. On March 2, I started the solo phase of my Asian Adventure. As I was having dinner with team leader Jim and the other Global Volunteers at the Hanoi Legacy Hotel, Mike was heading to the airport. I was glad that he’d been able to spend time in my “neighborhood”, and meet a couple of the other volunteers.

My boyfriend

My boyfriend

Judy and Bob, the only married couple in the group, are from Cleveland Ohio. Jeannie is originally from Lancaster, Pa, but now lives in DC. Sally is from Michigan; both Tom and Jim are from Minnesota. All of the volunteers except Tom have been in Southeast Asia for at least three weeks, so we have adjusted to the time change. Jeannie has been here the longest, having left the US in mid January. Like Mike and me, she traveled with Road Scholar, but she took two back-to-back trips with them.

Sunday was orientation for us volunteers. We started by getting to know each other, discussed why we were volunteering, learned about Global Volunteers’ activities in Vietnam and had a brief meeting with the administrator and teachers at Nuguyen Binh Khiem School.
image

And now a little about our “home” for the next two weeks. Many of the buildings in Vietnam are extremely narrow and deep, and our hotel is no exception. As with the USA, the tax code has an impact beyond collection and disbursement of revenue. Taxes on buildings in Vietnam are determined by the width of the first floor.

The hotel at 6:30 AM

The hotel at 6:30 AM

image
So, to bring light into the rooms in the middle of the building, there is a small opening, the width of a window. The advantage to being in an interior room is you are sheltered from all of the street noise. A very big plus indeed.
The view from my room.

The view from my room.


Although the building is old, the bathroom is decidedly modern. I don’t usually get excited about a toilet, but this one is AMAZING! It has a bidet built right into it. My new friend Sally and I have declared that one of these will definitely be a part of our lives in the near future. (Are you reading this, Mike?). It even comes with instructions!
A gadget that cleans your gadidgit

A gadget that cleans your gadidgit


The shower is quite spectacular as well. We had something similar in Italy last summer, but this one has enough water pressure so that you could actually USE all the nozzles at the same time. Ahhhh, a great way to start or end your day.
image
Another great thing about this hotel is its location near Hoan Kiem lake. I love walking around the lake early in the morning; the locals are out dancing, exercising, massaging each other. Because there aren’t a lot of foreigners around in the morning I’ve been invited to participate in the activities.
image

image

image
One morning Sally joined me, making us prime candidates to participate in the “chicken dance”. Although I don’t have a photo of that stellar performance, judging from the number of cameras that were whipped out, countless Hanoi locals DO.

I’m thoroughly enjoying being with these friendly, gracious people. The kids are wonderful…curious, bright, fun. The older boys like using my camera, so when some of the children ran over to say hello, I handed the camera to one of the boys, and this was the result.
image
Only three more days till I head home.