Hanoi Revisited (Part 1)

I visited Hanoi, Vietnam, last year in the summer (July). This is highly inadvisable. The weather is so hot that I am drenched in sweat as soon as the door opens. I hid in the air-condition as much as possible, avoiding the outdoors as much as I can. I had to carry extra t-shirts and towels. Thankfully, my trip last year was only for about five nights.

The quarters where we lived for awhile

This year, I took three whole weeks in May. The day of arrival was sweltering hot, much like last year. The beams of heat pierced through the car windows into the interior and I felt crevices become uncomfortably wet. No fun!

The University

I lived on the university campus for the first week. Thankfully, the weather cooled down after the first day. One of the first things I noticed was how hardworking the Vietnamese are (okay, I know some beg to differ). Definitely, the cleaning people are industrious. They are up early and by six in the morning, they are busy cleaning.

Likewise, the construction people. Drilling and hammering is the usual noise that wakes me up. It is bright at six in the morning and I watch as the cleaners use old-fashioned bamboo brooms to sweep the construction dust, while the construction workers mix cement, hammer out old concrete and drill. It is quite a symphony of cacophony.

By seven, students start wondering in. There is a certain innocence about them which cannot be found among Malaysians. They spend time with each other, rather than their handheld devices. They have real-life conversations. This is refreshing.

After dinner, taking a walk around the campus, one finds groups of students practising line dancing, or sitting in park and enjoying each other’s company, or jogging about the campus. By this time (unlike last July), the streets are breezy and some younger boys will be roller-blading. Stalls are lined up selling sausages and other munchies.

A temple in the university compound

Traffic, of course, is a whole different story. It has improved (a little) since last July. There is a minute drop in volume in terms of cars and motorbikes horning for no apparent reason. Still during rush hour, when the roads are chock-a-block, one will find motorcycles zooming on the pavement. I had to stand still while the sea of two-wheeled vehicles (motorbikes, motorised bicycles and bicycles) swarmed around me. Even the stall-holders pulled back their little stools to make way.

Which leads me to the little stalls: They are really cute and they are all over the place. They sell bottled or packeted drinks and tea or coffee. People sit around and chat, have a drink or a cigarette, and wile the time away. Some sell food but I was warned about the hygiene so I have refrained. I am not sure what they sell anyway.


Which leads me to the final thing (for now): English does not get you very far in Hanoi. In fact, my best friend was Google Translate. So be warned!