(revised December 3rd)
The sounds of Ha Noi...the varoom of the motorbikes, the honk of the taxis, the beepwhirr of the cyclos and more varrooms of the motorbikes. Amazing there are so few "splats" of pedestrians crossing the street (there IS a system...walk confidantly, moderate pace (to give them a chance to zigzap around you...stare them in the eye, and don't flinch...no kidding).
Arrived yesterday morning to a hazy sky. Crossed the meadering Red River (aptly named for its red color courtesy of upstream soils) into Ha Noi. People are friendly. Tourists are few (I'm not sure I have ever felt so conspicuous). Motorbikes are everywhere. Few dogs (no jokes please).
This morning we rose early (clearly in some other time zone than here). Decided to go to Hoan Kiem Lake for a walk at 6am. why? because EVERYONE is there...it was delightful. All of Ha Noi doing tai chi, graceful calisthentics, group fan dances (no not burlesque dances...graceful exercise with bright red hand held fans), something using a paddle and a ball moving to Que Sera, Sera. Many individuals stretching on benches and the lakeshore. Even a group back massage line that look like a conga line (maybe 40 women in a line)...And let's not forget the street where they were playing badminton (with and without nets) along the sidewalks and in plazas...maybe 30 games or more? Badminton? 6AM? on the sidewalks? Great!
We crossed over the red picturesque Bridge of the Rising Sun (or "where the rays of the morning sun touch" or "Flood of Morning Sunlights"...you get the idea. ) to explore the tiny island where the Ngoc Son pagoda resides. The temple supposedly dates back to the fourteenth century, although the current buildings were probably built in the eighteenth century. The temple is dedicated to the hero Tran Hung Dao, who defeated a force of 300,000 sent to invade Vietnam by the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. There are also altars dedicated to the scholars Van Xuong and La To, the patron saint of physicians!
We took a short break at the north end of the lake and had a vietnamese coffee at the Thuyta Cafe (locate at No 1 Lo Thai To). It had a lovely view across the lake and we sat outside in the early morning haze watching a birds on the lake.
As we continued our early morning walk around the Old Quarter we saw everyone eating their breakfast pho (a noodle soup) on the small squatty chair and stools made out of either red or blue plastic (occassionally green) right on the sidewalks. One bowl and then its time to go...to work...to school. The vienamese are very communal people, they exercise together, eat together, talk and chat together. I know its partly because their is so little space per person...but none the less they seem to happily social, like its out of choice not circumstance or geography.
More tomorrow about our walking tour of the market, the Hilton, squeezing into a two person cyclo, the 1000year anniversary of Ha Noi, and roaming the streets. But for now...jet lag is setting in...time for bed.
Oh...and here is your vietanmese lesson for the day: Dang Nhop "sign in"...had to figure that out to get into blogspot!