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Cuộc sống hàng ngày (daily life)

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!

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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:

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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!

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Groups of women all selling the same thing – in this case giant pomelo and other miscellaneous green fruit

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Disintegrating buildings, houses, gates, temples – in this case a gate from the old citadel

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Piles and piles of green onion that had to be cleaned… at 9pm… in the middle of the street

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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:

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Cheers Hanoi

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Sawadee Ka

ImageSkidding down the steep, eroded hill I was wondering if we should have forked out the extra money for a four-wheeler ATV. Sure the old scooter was $40 cheaper but how much would the medical bill be when these dodgy brakes failed. Up ahead, our friends had developed a new plan… As Sait pulled the bike over the broken bitumen drops, Emily got off and walked along beside. I decided to follow suit.

We were at Koh Samet, Thailand. A small island approximately 200km from Bangkok airport, an easy long weekend from Hanoi. The previous day we had sped into our cove, lined with palm trees and small hotels, ready to enjoy the sandy beaches, warm water, and many meals of fresh seafood and Pad Thai. Despite the rainy season the weather was lovely; refreshingly cool after Hanoi, which was getting too hot and humid to enjoy time outside. With two full days we decided to first explore the island on scooters before spending a day snorkeling off shore.

ImageDespite the (literally) rocky start on the scooters, the day picked up when we “discovered” a stunning clifftop lookout with views down the coast and out to the sparkling blue water. This side of the island, less sheltered than the cove where we stayed, had a small surf and the day passed in a salty, sandy haze of eating and playing in the waves. Emboldened by our relaxing afternoon we jumped back on the scooters for the 15 minute drive home. An hour later we had driven in a circle, twice. Thinking we would try a different route home, my confidence in my directional capabilities had gotten us lost.

ImageEnergized by our adventure we decided to catch a taxi to a nearby restaurant – the taxi turned out to be a pick-up truck with benches nailed to tray. Tightly gripping the sides and trying not to swallow too must sand, we barreled along dark, bumpy roads before arriving at a quiet, rickety restaurant built on stilts in the sea. Watching the water lapping through the floor boards I ate the best Thai meal I have ever had – vege spring rolls, addictive fried rice, aromatic curry, fresh fish, and, in Sait’s case, more fried rice. In desperate need of exercise after such a meal we stumbled home through the headland forest, following a woman who sprang across exposed roots and outcropped rocks, invisible in the dark until we nearly tripped over them.

ImageThe following morning brought more adventure and as we started out in a speedboat ready for a day of snorkeling, black clouds began to gather on the horizon. The sheltered geographic location of Koh Samet means that it gets very little rain in the wet season and throughout the day we watched as dark thunderheads, flashing with lighting, passed around us.  Swimming over small coral reefs in the glowing aqua water, we watched small fish, some with noses as long as their bodies, dart around sea anemones, and schools of transparent fish float by, unconcerned by the many spectators watching their progress. Although the rain didn’t reach us, the wind did. Speeding between islands, the boat crashed through the choppy water, airborne for a moment before slamming back into the waves, jarring us all and sending up shrieks among some of the passengers. I loved it and the ride reminded both Zack and I of when we would take out the speed boat in Gambia.

Our final evening we walked along the beach to watch a wedding at a neighboring hotel. As the wedding guests sent sky lanterns (like mini paper hot air balloons) in to the inky sky we danced in the sand to the cheesy love songs played by the wedding band.  The next day we woke to rain on the roof of our small cabin, making it easier to leave. On the journey home we were already planning our next beach holiday… where to next? Image

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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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Week One

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Enjoying Bia Hà Nội on our balcony

Tomorrow will mark our one week anniversary in our new home. This week has been fun, exciting, tiring and terrifying (only when crossing the road) all at once. Monday morning Zack dove right into work and will spend the next month in language class. I, happily, am much more free to enjoy the sights and sounds of our new neighbourhood. Not wanting to wait all week for Zack to explore with me I have taken the plunge and decided to go and do and eat wherever I end up, usually somewhere within a 5 mile radius of our apartment. Although it’s always great to have Zack with me I am pleasantly surprised as to how relaxing and easy it is to explore by myself. It’s hard not to make comparisons to Gambia and although I never felt unsafe walking on the beach (etc.) it was unpleasant constantly avoiding the “Bumsters”.

Walking around I see any number of things that often make me both laugh and cringe, sometimes simultaneously. A few examples from the past couple of days:

  • Unidentified squealing animal in a plastic bag on the handle of a scooter
  • Indefinite about of close calls on the road, usually involving multiple scooters coupled with multiple phone texts
  • Toads in a bowl on the footpath (a new take on toad-in-a-hole)
  • Eels (or something) in a bucket of water on the footpath
  • A puppy in a bike basket
  • A baby in a bike basket

Our evening routine this week has included multiple walks in various directions, eating a new Vietnamese dish every night and enjoying Beer Hanoi on our little balcony overlooking the street. Since arriving our excitement to be in Vietnam has increased and we’re keen to get into life here and continue exploring both the city and the country.

Hẹn gặp lại

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New Posting… New Post

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view from bedroom window

Xin chào các bạn and welcome to my new blog Hà Nội Sống which means something along the lines of Hanoi living, living in Hanoi, Hanoi live etc. despite the poor grammar, it makes a nice title.

As Zack and I have now arrived at our new home for the next two years in Quận Ba Đình, Hà Nội, it seems time to begin a new chapter of blog writing. I hope you will stay tuned as I attempt to live, work and speak Vietnamese in this lively city full of interesting culture, different smells, crazy driving and of course… wonderful food.

You can follow my adventures by clicking the “follow” button that pops up on the bottom right hand side of the screen and please leave comments along the way.

xin cám ơn các bạn và hẹn gặp lại!