Afternoon in Hanoi
After work today, I was eager to talk a walk about town. I’ve felt a bit disconnected from Hanoi recently. A few of my friends have either left or are out of town, and if it’s just me, I usually spend my free time at home at the computer. I can always find something to do or someone on SKYPE to catch up with.
So I pushed myself to go to do a little shopping today. I wanted to go to the camera shops to search for a case for my new camera and a new cover for my Mac. I went into one shop and said, “Do you have camera case for Panasonic Lumix?” The clerk replied, “Do you need camera?” I pulled my camera out of my purse and it’s simple cotton sack I’ve been keeping it in. “Nope. I have the camera.” She gave me the snottiest look and said, “No, we don’t have case.” Ok fine. Just because I am not buying the camera from you doesn’t mean you can’t sell me the damn case!
I quickly gave up on shopping after that first failed attempt (My patience has actually grown shorter in these 2 years in Vietnam) and decided to take a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake. I just wanted a leisurely walk, soak up the sights and hit the refresh button. I couldn’t walk five steps without someone approaching me.
I was ‘bothered’ by a kid trying to sell me guidebooks, or another who wanted to practice English or when I shifted sides and walked roadside, it was the motorbike, cyclo and taxi drivers begging for me to accept a ride. I even had some expat dude named Isaak walk up to me, ask me if I spoke English and then proceed to tell me about a special tour I could take into remote villages. Perhaps I normally would have spoken to the kid who wanted to learn English and engaged Isaak in a longer conversation about how he finds himself in Hanoi selling charity tours into the hillsides, but my whole point of taking a walk in the city was simply to observe the pace of life, people watch and soak it up a bit. I didn’t have one moment to absorb anything because just as I finished brushing off one person, then next was approaching me. I felt like an offensive lineman trying to protect my QB! How am I supposed to feel the pulse of the city if I can’t sit for a moment to observe it?
Vietnam just celebrated it’s Independence Day, as well as the death anniversary of Ho Chi MInh. Hoan Kiem Lake was also the hub of many activities, including the ever-present-on-special-holidays flower festival and fireworks. I’ve included a few photos of the remains of the flower festival. You can even see the cyclo driver carrying a potted plant to his cyclo. That guy stopped three times to dig up flowers from the remaining pots. Madness!
I thought I would stop in one more shop before I went home, and that was a jewelry shop I like, where I bought my little dragonfly earrings. Even in the tiny shop, I could not move an inch without the store clerk closely following my every footstep. I tried to strike up a conversation, to no avail and then decided that it was time to go home. I fended off the meter-less taxi drivers, the questionable motorbike guys who in very creepy voices say as you pass by, “Moto?” I finally caught a Mailinh taxi. The guy has driven me home before and it did nothing to put me at ease that he told me my street and side lane before I could tell him.
I stopped quickly at L’s place to pick up some cereal and some spices, and while there, listened in on two uber skinny 20-something girls debate if they should break their diet and get a chocolate bar or an Atkins bar. I didn’t bother to see what they chose. One of them proudly announced to the entire market that she would drink the large bottle of water by the end of the day. Um, whatever, girls. No need to justify what you are buying to each other or the rest of us. You’re young, you’re health conscious…we get it. We actually don’t give a shit…just buy the damn items and move along.
I arrived home, cranked up the air con (it was 37/98 today) and sat down at my computer to unwind. So much for my pleasant little afternoon in Hanoi.