Hanoi

I’ve been in Hanoi for 11 days now. It took about ten days for me to settle in, feel at home. When I first walked down the street near my flat I had trouble finding a place to eat. Now I feel overwhelmed by the selection. Do I have time to eat at all these places? Every alley I walk down becomes my new favourite alley, until the next one. Today I found an alley, near a tiny lake, that seems to have everything. A woman was chopping up fresh jackfruit, I had to take some of that home. A week ago I might not have given her a second look. She was working on the pavement, on a piece of cardboard, with a giant machete. She did have a glove on the hand that was managing the fruit. And I had to queue, there was a demand for her wares. There’s a bánh mì place that bakes its own bread, more than one place selling delicious fruit, a number of chè (dessert) stalls with glass jars full of jewel like jellies to add to your bowl. The thing is, everything here is so fresh that you’re much less likely to get sick than from eating at a restaurant in London where they wrap the food every night to reuse the next day. The meat you’re served was likely still walking around earlier the same day. It never goes into a refrigerator.

This morning after my bùn chả breakfast I walked to a coffee shop I’d seen on Travelfish, where I had a coffee with coconut milk and wrote postcards. Then I decided to follow my nose to find a post office, what I found instead was a hospital that was for some reason called the Post Office Hospital. On the way I cut through a market that sold shoes which had already gone too many miles, and a flea market that seemed to only sell mysterious electronic components. Miles of them. And jetting through this market, down aisles no wider than an airplane aisle, were scooters going in both directions.

I searched again for a post office and found the real thing, but one that only handled packages and couldn’t sell me stamps for my foreign postcards. Seems I will have to give in and go to the big post office in the centre of town. That’s fine, I can plan a day that starts off there and heads off into parts unknown. That’s my general strategy. I have one or two minor goals, a camera, a notebook, and a bottle of water. Then I go and see what else I trip over. It means I don’t tick many tour highlight boxes, but I feel that I’m marinating most throughly in Vietnam.

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