Posted by: sharemore1 | October 2, 2010

A Day in Hanoi

In Hanoi the action starts early.  Even the sun seems to be in a hurry, with full daylight coming quickly after sunrise at 5:45 am.  Trucks, cars, taxis, motorbikes, bicycles and the occasional pedestrian are already on the move.  Our neighborhood of Quan Ba Dinh, northwest of the Old City, is no exception.

Morning Exercise

People gather to exercise in a local park or paved area in front of a building.  Women do a form of tai chi, while men and women play vigorous games of badminton.  Later the badminton courts will be turned over to da cau, a popular Hanoi sport where men keep a weighted shuttlecock in the air by kicking it or bopping it with their bodies (no hands allowed), their brown skin soon glistening with sweat.

Our local market is well underway by 6:00 am.  Some vendors have tables in a covered area, while others arrange their wares along the road.  No plastic-wrapped Styrofoam containers here.  Freshly butchered meat is laid out on open tables. Live shrimp and crabs wiggle in their pans, while larger fish may flip out in one last bid for freedom.  Pigeons go from being live birds to plucked squab in a matter of minutes.

Flipping Out

From Pigeon to Squab

We’ve learned to do our shopping early, as mid-day is naptime.  Many establishments close down for the Asian equivalent of a siesta; even students and professors at the university stretch out on a row of chairs or planks for a snooze.  Everything quiets down at a nearby apartment under construction, and we can see the bare feet of the workers sticking out from the first floor where they sleep.

Napping on the Job

Our apartment is on the second floor of a modern, four-story building (walk-up, of course) called Happy House.  We have a spacious, air-conditioned one-bedroom unit.  Young women come three days a week to clean and do our laundry, bringing back freshly pressed clothes that had never been touched by an iron before.  I am happy.

Happy House

Moshe is busy, teaching two days a week, meeting with students and speaking in seminars.  He either hops a bus or gets a motorbike ride

Going to Work

from a fellow faculty member.  Every time he gives a talk, he comes home with another huge bouquet of flowers.  We may have to make another run to the pottery village (see A Trip to the Pottery Village) for some more vases.

We’re making the rounds of the neighborhood restaurants, where we may sit on a little plastic stool to slurp pho noodles ($1.50) or splurge at an Italian restaurant, where the bill comes to $5.00 each including wine.  We haven’t yet tried the local Korean and Japanese cuisine.

Sometimes we cook at home.  We like to make stir fry with fresh vegetables and shrimp from the market.  Buying things like stir fry sauce is done by looking at the picture on the bottle and hoping we’ve guessed right.  We gave up on trying to get the clerk to understand that we wanted horseradish and decided to manage with local ingredients.  For dessert we often have a small pineapple, expertly peeled and cut by a woman at the market.

Dark comes quickly after the sun sets at 5:45 pm.  In the evenings we walk around the local lake, looking discreetly away from the lovers kissing at the water’s edge and talking about the adventures we have planned for the next day.

Ho Thu Le Lake


  1. Nice description. Sounds like the people living in Viet Nam eat a healthy diet and keep active with exercise and walking. I suspect you don’t see as many overweight people as we see in the USA . Maybe there is something to learn from their experience. Love the image of the women exercising.
    . Kathy

  2. How wonderful to see through your photos and writings. Thank you.

  3. Love this post!

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