A terrific, awful headache woke me up, and we think it was due to the air. This is a good time to mention that the air is not nice to breathe, and it stings our eyes and throats. So many Hanoians wear cloth masks that cover their faces, leaving just their eyes peeking out. But the air does seem better than it did in 2005; back then, it was most common to see people wearing protective elbow-length gloves in addition to the masks (which they even wear on the bus). So no gloves this time around, which is an obvious sign of improvement. There seem to be more cars and fewer of the little putt-putt scooters. But I do think it was the bad air that gave me the terrible headache, which woke me up and kept me awake much of the night.
Breakfast this morning in the hotel was just fine, and we headed out to walk to Hoan Kiem Lake, which is in the center of the Old Quarter of Hanoi. We were out at 8am, more or less, and the streets were so quiet. We thought it might just a regular Sunday morning thing, but we learned that the major street was blocked to traffic because there was some kind of race going on. We walked around the lovely lake, watched the people, wandered through narrow (crazy busy) streets, and stopped for a coffee float.
Tonight we take the overnight train to Sapa, so we won't be back on the blog until tomorrow -- assuming we can get online in Sapa. We spent one night sleeping on the plane, then one night in bed in Hanoi, one night tonight on the train to Sapa, the next night in a bed in Sapa, the following night on the train back to Hanoi, then a night in Hanoi. It makes me dizzy. And happy.
|the elevator floor in our hotel. for some reason i find this very bizarre.|
|regular street scene around our hotel|
|more street scenes around our hotel|
|the national library|
|a cool tree on the grounds of the national library. click to enlarge, it's quite amazing.|
|so here we are, at Hoan Kiem Lake. it's kind of like Central Park for Hanoi.|
|more shots of the lake|
|really so beautiful, and such a gorgeous day|
|these gates lead to a little red bridge that crosses the lake and leads to a temple. hi marc!|
|to manage the overwhelm of horn-honking and the constant threat of being run over, we stopped at this little place for something to drink. it was right on the lake, and the breeze was just right. hi lori!|
|this is what we got -- a coffee float. the coffee was strong espresso, and the ice cream was GREAT. just the treat to get us through the morning.|
|If you could read Vietnamese, you could read about it on this sign.|
|Hanoi is the City of Peace|
|but it's not all magical tortoises, women in ao dai and conical hats, and ancient charm. Witness Playboy Hanoi.|