Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hanoi! Hanoi! Hà Nội Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

Now that I've traveled so much, compared to my first visit here in 2005, I wondered how Hanoi would look to me. I'll tell you: it looks wonderful. It still looks unique, it's a very singular place. It's grown since we were here, it's gotten fancier, but it still has this very dynamic feeling of falling down, being rebuilt, and being lived in, all at the same time. It's busy. When we stepped out of the airport, I cried for being back, as I suspected I would. The air smells the same, a little bit acrid from all the 2-stroke engines, but it adds to the singularity of the place.
one reason I think I love Vietnam so much: the women. they wear these beautiful ao dai, the most graceful and practical outfits, and they are just beautiful themselves.
yeah! Welcome!

Our fantastic hotel, Rising Dragon Palace, sent a car to pick us up and as usual, the driver seemed to speak almost no English which is never a problem, somehow. We had a little excitement getting to the hotel, though; the driver wanted to turn left at a crazy-busy intersection that had something extra going on, but we couldn't tell what. There were a couple of cops in the intersection steering people off to the side, blocking them from turning left. But see, our driver wanted to turn left. So he started to obey the cop but then he tried to turn left and the cop didn't like that. There was a little confrontation with the cop right at the front bumper, and he sent our driver over to the curb. So we sat in the backseat and watched this thing going on -- this thing we didn't understand one little bit -- and thought well? We'll be ok, and this is an interesting story. The driver got back in the car and we think he got a couple of bills out of his wallet and tucked them in his paperwork and said "two minutes." He disappeared, and we sat there. It was more than 2 minutes, but no big deal.

shot from the back seat with a feeling of "uh oh better not let them see me taking a picture."
Eventually he came back and took us to our hotel. Maybe we went the long way, since he didn't get to turn left. Anyway -- scenic splendor. Hà Nội.

construction often looks like this -- like a bunch of rag-tag kids putting up a building by the scruff of their necks. the scaffolding always makes me nervous.

what we think are standard houses. at any rate, the homes are always very narrow and tall, and the top floor is usually a huge open room covered by a roof. and there are pointed things sticking up at every corner.

more houses -- it was raining, so everything looks dimmer than it really is (and i was shooting from inside the car as we drove to the hotel)

yep, women in these conical hats are everywhere. and people on scooters, no matter what the weather is.
Our hotel is just so charming, and an incredible room for $55/night. Seriously. We're on the top floor with a city view, and a little terrace. There are rose petals on the bed and floating in the bathroom sink. We hear the constant honking outside (well, a little; it's a very nice room with great a/c and it's quiet, especially considering where it is). We're staying in the old quarter, and the night market is a couple blocks away (the adorable guy who showed us everything on the map kept saying how lucky we are to be here on Saturday, because of the night market).

seriously! so inexpensive and wonderful! the shower is great, which is so important after traveling for more than 24 hours to get somewhere.

our little terrace, with the city view.
So after a bit of resting and a cup of tea, we're going to head out for some sightseeing, some great food (the nearby pho is supposed to be great), a bit of night marketing, and probably a relatively early crash.

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