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Nắng Nóng

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Escaping the mid-day heat in a nearby park

Nắng nóng… sunny and hot. To my readers in Australia who are shivering in the rainy Victorian weather, doesn’t that sounds lovely right now? Well you’re wrong. Last week was day after day of nắng nóng. A phrase Hanoians say in a tone reminiscent of “cold and rainy”… for once, hot and sunny weather is not something to look forward to. Growing up in Bright, 40 degree days are not uncommon but 40 degree days with air so thick I feel as if I’ll drown under Hanoi’s smoggy skies are another kettle of fish… or bowl of snakes is, perhaps more appropriate.

Around the corner is a small pop-up market. Every morning women arrive with long poles sporting baskets of goods and conical hats lowered against the heat and scooter fumes. If I go early on the right days (which I am yet to pin down) I may be lucky enough to see bowls of small snakes, withering in the sun next to half plucked dead chickens laid out next to their live brethren. Beside the watery bowls of circling fish, waiting to be unceremoniously slaughtered on the road; I buy bananas, pineapples, mangoes and something I thought was a lychee but is apparently a type of chom chom… a word I only know from Vietnamese class.

ImageWalking home in the humidity, half human half puddle, a strong wind picked up and blew bright green leaves across my path. As I thankfully turned my damp face to the breeze, I caught a sweet tangy wiff of the freshly cut passionfruit displayed at the small street stall where I occasionally drink café sữa đá (iced coffee). Given the rapidly descending light, I decided against stopping. As I reached home, the blackened sky opened up and the world was awash with water. In the darkness, shop lights flicked on and the street fell quiet, a rare sight for mid-afternoon. Fifteen minutes later it cleared and life resumed. The heat had gone… for now.

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Cuộc sống buổi sáng trên đường phố

Below our apartment

Below our apartment

Another morning and I wake around 6:30am. I walk to the front of our apartment where I slide open the glass doors and let the morning noise, heat and smell flow into the room. As Zack heads out the front door I brew a fresh pot of tea and sit on our small balcony to observe the early morning rush of life on Tran Phu street below. Earlier last month, when we were still suffering jet lag, I would stare out our window at 5:30am, watching the hundreds of early risers beginning their day. Even now, I am amazed when the street is busy at 7am on a Sunday. At a time when the majority of Washingtonians or Melburnians would still be sounds asleep, Hanoians seem ready and raring (literally in the case of the scooters) to go. I recently came across an old blog entitled The City That Never Sleeps In, a title which seems only fitting for the city the author was writing about.

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Perhaps it is because we have only been here a month and have not yet tired of the incessant honking, yelling and air pollution, but I enjoy our balcony and the sights and sounds it affords me. Every morning I see an old man, crippled with old age, slowly making his way. To where? I have no idea. He is accompanied by a young women, perhaps his granddaughter, who walks patiently beside him, a cloth mask protecting her mouth a nose from the car fumes. People ride past carrying an array of different materials; baskets of flowers on the backs of push bikes, some so large they threaten to conceal the rider;  loads of pineapples that look so heavy I don’t know how the old women manage; even the occasional piece of miscellaneous building material stretching five times the length of the bike.

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This morning I read a great blog post from a fellow Tran Phu admirer (the street rather than the person) that shares a bit of history and many more great photos. After spending the first part of my morning observing, I descend down to street level and become a participator rather than a spectator… although not a scooter… chưa (not yet!).

on the open shaded road... the quieter end of the street

on the open shaded road… the quieter end of the street