After a year away and looking at Hanoi from Bansko it all looked quite exotic in Vietnam. Being here now brought last year’s experiences and memories back and made me feel at home quite quickly. There is, of course, always a danger in that. The danger being that you still have only a very superficial knowledge about the real life in that country – but you believe you know it all already and therefore are not open anymore. I believe I am humble enough to acknowledge that I have not penetrated the Vietnamese much more than below their surface 🙂 But I am working on it (hoping, that I didn’t hurt them that much so far) 😉
I have made good progress. Yesterday I rented a 135cc motorbike for two months (a little bit over the limit because foreigner are not supposed to drive motorbikes with more than 125cc). But I felt since my body-weight is about twice the average Vietnamese man’s size that I needed their most powerful bike 🙂
Having a bike gives you the independence you need. Don’t forget, Hanoi is like Sofia when I cam there last century. If you are not an experienced local you won’t know where to buy what! No big super- and hypermarkets (apart from Metro). So you need to be flexible.
On Saturday evening after dinner I also had my first coffee “da” (iced black coffee) in my little street:
Something (as I said already last year) you can’t find anywhere else in the world. A unique taste!
Sunday started with a not perfectly traditional breakfast of Japanese ramen and shrimps, the portion being far to huge for a breakfast but too tasty to leave anything behind 🙂
I sacrificed myself and ate it all and went back to bed for a little nap (considering that breakfast took place at 6.45 am this was acceptable).
After recovering, the next step was a Sunday morning excursion to Ban Trangh – a ceramics/pottery village maybe 16km outside Hanoi.
They specialise in Chinese style vases two metres high and more… people use them mainly for their altars in their houses were they worship their ancestors. As I was more looking for a perfectly sized “sake” container – these were slightly too big for my purposes. But being so close to Hanoi everything was overpriced anyway 🙂 Even the parking fees for motorbikes (10,000 Vietnamese Dong)…
On the way back I did not even get lost once! And I was bloody proud of my driving perfomance. Yesterday I took the bike to my apartment from the centre and today was my first ride-out! And I did not cause a single accident! You know, last year I decided not to drive in Hanoi EVER! And now I am in the middle of the flow! Amazing.
After coming to Bulgaria I was under the illusion: if you can drive in Sofia you can drive anywhere! Until I drove in Cairo for the first time! After driving for only four hours in Cairo (looking for my hotel – the Meridien near the Pyramids) and starting to drive single-handedly, filming with the other arm, I thought I am the master of all masters! Until I came to Hanoi last year! There are an estimated 1,5 million motorbikes on the Hanoi streets at any given day-light time! You have to see it to believe it. Traffic-lights are only suggestions. Police never interfere with the traffic. Maybe I will manage to take a video while driving these days 🙂
Dinner was hefty tonight – all kinds of vegetables whose names you have never heard, accompanied by a (non-vietnamese but) very tasty cherry-tomato, avocado salad and loads of fresh,fresh squid…washed down with a 2010 “Anna Davide” Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile with “only 13.5%alcohol (the chef’s choice, bought at the diplomats’ duty fee shop in town :).
Life is not so bad in Hanoi, the capital of the “socialist republic” of Vietnam if you are connected (no comparison to the socialist times in Bulgaria intended 🙂 )
The next two days will be busy, catching up with last year. On Wednesday I will be off to Thailand for two weeks: Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand, as I have to look for a new manufacturer of good massage oils (for Pirin Lodge, Bulgaria and myself), since the one I found on Phuket last year let me down! But not only for that, of course, but also to catch up with passionate Thai food…:)
I will be back on Hanoi on the 16th and we will see what will happen then!
Isn’t life s struggle? 😉
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