Wandering Hanoi

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Aug 2, 12:40pm, Cafe in Hanoi

The architecture here, unlike in Taiwan, or at least Taipei, is built for the heat. Everything has high ceilings, so the heat flows up and away. This cafe is dimly lit but cooly comfortable with just a fan at work. And there's a lot of heat.

In Taipei there are a billion ACs blasting away, and the temperature difference between inside and outside is usually about 30 degrees. It just makes the outdoors seem hotter. Plus it makes it easy to catch a cold in the middle of summer.

The buildings are all very narrow, only about 12 or 15 feet across. the ceilings often twice as high. More like buildings in the south of Taiwan come to think of it. Areas which haven't become dependant on AC.

People are friendly, kids say hello, loudly with a big smile on their face, staring: what is that creature?

In other words, everything seems familiar, only the language tells me I'm not in some part of China. But that's probably just ignorance on my part, the all-foreigners-look-alike syndrome.

Hanoi is pleasant, more like a small Taiwan village, everything done a mite bit slower pace. Lots of people are hanging out, and sitting together. Like the gentlemen across from me smoking and drinking beer.

At 9 this morning, the cafes were crowded, getting their caffiene fix: coffee served in tall glasses, not mugs, and you filter it yourself. Pouring hot water through a filter with coffee grounds. It's good too, especially "milky coffee" as it is written on the menus here, sweet and tasty.

I wonder if it's my language, or lack thereof I mean, that keeps the police state a vague being. Loudspeakers mounted on poles and walls all around the city were spouting forth something this morning. who knows what. Some quotations are taped to the wall, others painted on, graffitti or propoganda I don't know, but can maybe guess.

What amazes me is that they are friendly at all. they have less reason to forget ( or should I say forgive, it's unlikely to be forgotten) the war than Americans do. Yet some sections of the American population would have us never forgive, even though it's more in our place to do so. The Vietmanese (at least not in the North) did not ask us to get involved.

Perhaps there is a similar group of people here. Not everyone has a smile for me and the stares don't always seem very warm or curious. But that may be ignorance too.

One thing is it IS humid (moving on to a different topic) which is why maybe the dogs seem so indifferent, too hot to bark. Their ears don't even twitch when you walk past them. Maybe there are so many backpackers here they are used to the smell of us.

I did walk for almost 20 minutes this morning without seeing a foreigner. Amazing.

Or perhaps I'm being conceited, always wanting to have been the first, the only one in a place. The Western mass struggle to be unique. A bit silly and more than a bit futile in the end.

I should give in and admit it. I'm one of thousands most of whom also want to do as I: get away from each other, to see the "real" wherever without interference. The uncertainty principle though is not limited to physics however. I came here to see Vietnam, and what do I see? I see varied and distorted reflections of myself. There is no 'real' thing per se. It will be different because of my very presence.

Which isn't a bad thing I guess- makes me humble for one- cause I don't always see what I like. One learns about oneself as much as anything too.

I like it here. Wish I could speak Vietmanese, though. All I've been able to master is thank you.

Aug 2, 4pm, on a Lake side

The money used is the Dong. It is approximately 10,000 Dong to a dollar. If enough Westerners come they'll be using US dollars to do all their transactions. You can pay for everything and get change too! The exchange is not exactly in our favor (the actual rate is more like 11,000 to a dollar), but things are cheap enough that it doesn't really matter. A bottle of beer is about a buck.

Stopping anywhere is enough to attract hawkers.

I went to a suspiciously Chinese-looking temple and had to buy some postcards so kids would watch my bike. The rent for the bike is 6000 Dong for a day with a US$20 deposit, and I somehow don't trust the little lock that they provide.

Plan to go to Mass later today in their gothic cathedral.

Saw a guy wading in one lake picking semi-dead fish from the lilies which grow close to the shore where I sit. He left one scrawny mangled looking one to die in the grass. I'm not sure I'll eat fish here.

And did I mention it? It IS humid.

This place is near the temple, and near another lake where an American plane crashed after it had been shot down. There is a little monument to it. About twenty people were busy pulling a net out of the water. The net was about the same size as the lake.

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