So there has been a slight lag in blogging lately. Not because I don’t enjoy sharing Hanoi with you, but because I seem to spend so much time staring at my computer that sometimes I can’t stand to sit here for one minute longer. I want to get out, explore, even if it is just along the streets I walk every day. The wonderful thing about Hanoi – well to be honest I think there are many wonderful things about Hanoi – but one thing I love is that I can pass through an area I go daily and still see things that are new or interesting or crazy or funny, or sometimes just downright worrying: i.e. this telecom pole we sit next to when eating kem xoi, which is sticky rice and ice-cream – yes it is as good as it sounds!
The pole collapsed in a storm the week after this particular kem xoi outing
So even on routine days I can go out for a walk and pass places like:
This (literally) hole in the wall mechanic what will fix your motobike and offer service such as: pump, welding machine, coating machine (?) right there on the sidewalk!
Groups of women all selling the same thing – in this case giant pomelo and other miscellaneous green fruit
Disintegrating buildings, houses, gates, temples – in this case a gate from the old citadel
Piles and piles of green onion that had to be cleaned… at 9pm… in the middle of the street
A boiling kettle, alone, in the middle of the sidewalk – where else?!
And if all we want to do is eat (which, let’s face it, in this city is fairly often) we can get some of the best Pho in town (or the world), topped off by egg coffee spiked with homemade rum:
Labor Day long weekend represents the end of Summer in America, but here is Hanoi temperatures are still warm and the humidity is unrelenting – although endless rain is dampening any summery feel. Zack and I were happy to take advantage of the holiday and retreat to the more temperate weather of Vietnam’s north-eastern mountains. Just a “quick” eight hour night train later and we were our of Hanoi’s noise and pollution and into the clean mountain air, relaxing in silence on a mountain top; 45 minutes from the small town of Sapa.
Tourists flock to Sapa to take in the breathtaking views, hike amongst rice paddies, and interact with the many minority tribes that live in the region.
But as enjoyable as these activities were, we were on a mission… to conquer Mt. Fansipan. Towering over the surrounding hills at over 3000 meters, the mountain is the highest in Indochina and a challenge we couldn’t pass up.
What I could pass up, however, was a night in a camp surrounded by mud, trash, and rats. So, in defiance of local advice, we attempted, and only just succeeded, in climbing the mountain in one day. A feat, according to our guide, only attempted by Australians and a few Europeans… Never by Vietnamese. We were warned that it would be an eleven hour slog up a seemingly endless slippery slope, decorated with mossy boulders, creeks, and tricky tree roots. The constant mud was just part of the fun. Feeling pretty confident in our hiking abilities we really didn’t give this much thought, perhaps we should have. After eleven and a half hours we limped out of the forest, muddy, bloody and bruised, from a trek that could have been spectacular if it wasn’t for the impenetrable cloud.
Despite the turmoil of the hike we did in enjoy the challenge… in retrospect. We slept well that night, in a our beautiful eco-lodge, happy in the knowledge that we had made it. The next day we barely moved.
Sunset at the lodge