During the four mornings I spent in the city of Hanoi in-between my jaunts to Halong Bay and Sapa, my favorite part was walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake. Being under sunny skies, feeling the winter wind and being embraced by the 12 degree Celsius cold is the perfect condition to romp and stomp and get to know a new city. The occasional showers which show up at an interlude of a couple of hours had me sheltering under the tall trees that surround the lake. Otherwise, I would have gone round and round and round the lake. Sometimes I would walk towards a random street ending up another side of the Old French Quarters, but each time I would always follow a path back to Hoan Kiem Lake.
|the Turtle Tower or Thap Rua|
On my last morning in Hanoi while walking again around the lake park, a local man approached me and offered me 'beautiful ladies knows massage, very good" while motioning a thumbs up sign to me. Already running on an empty pocket, I settled only on buying a dozen and a half postcards from him. Afterward I crossed the street and sat on a small cafe and wrote down a short note to each postcard recipients from back home. While I'm trying to put words into writing on the card about my trip there, I wondered about how long before they will receive my card. I am quite certain on one thing though, I needed to sell them the idea that they must visit this city in the future.
Nobody has told me to visit Hanoi, it has been forever been in my mind since my childhood fascination with Vietnam war movies, to me Hanoi is where girls would chase American soldiers and declare "GI number 1", it was the retelling of Vietnam's dark history that was etched in my mind that made me so interested in finding out the modern and peace time Hanoi, so I could finally have a memory of my own to associate the city with.
What I saw now is a bustling city that is like a representation of the world. People from all over the globe walks among each other like citizens of this planet ought to exist. There are the smiles and nodding of the head when you made eye contact with them, the locals offering you something to sell and would be delighted and thank you to high heavens if you buy something, but nonetheless would still give you a smile if you politely beg off from buying.
The cold of the winter has that way of stabbing myself, as I walk around and see couples posing for the pre-nuptials photo-shoot I certainly felt a twinge of loneliness. This place is better shared with someone I thought to myself. That idea quickly vaporized in the freezing mist of the afternoon as I move my feet forward and felt freedom as I go by and discovered more nooks and crannies of the old quarters.
The four mornings and afternoons seems like a week or two as I've seen a lot and did a lot during that time span. I drank beer on side street pub houses, had Vietnamese coffee on a number of well-decorated cafes and warmed myself with hot Pho in a long list of sit-down-on-the-sidewalk makeshift noodle stalls. I had an overdose of visual feast same thing with consuming caffeine overdrive.
Inside bookstores, souvenir and thrift shops, I rummaged my fingers just to surprise myself with what I will find. After that, then its more walking around, feeling the cold and breathing out fog as the sun shines from above only to let drizzles of rain to fall by late afternoon. During that time I would feel my fingers starting to get stiff so I'd find a bench and sit down and do people watching. One time I walked all the way to Ho Chi Minh memorial about a few kilometers away and upon consulting my map, I ended up walking the opposite direction on my way back.
I backtracked and ditched the map inside my pocket, I just went ahead through narrow and wider streets until I found myself yet again at Hoan Kiem Lake. My feet ached, my heart beat faster and my breathing heavy but all my senses are alive and bursting with fervor of processing the city, the people and the experience of knowing Hanoi outside of those Vietnam war films.
Even towards my last remaining hours in the city I took yet another walk before I boarded the taxi waiting for me in front of Sihn Tourist Cafe that was arranged by the colleague of my new found friend Hoang. Oh did I told you she invited me for a dinner at her place and hanged out with her friends during my first night in Hanoi? That was one another great memory I would write about here pretty soon. The winter cold didn't bother me, thanks to my double layered My Philippines Lifestyle Jacket, what bothers me though, is the length of time I would have to wait again to go back to Hanoi.