This ain’t Kona, or even Kansas, Toto! It is Hà Nội, Việt Nam. The pace of life has changed, 7.1 million live in this city. It feels like the busiest place we have ever been, but I was surprised, when checking Wikipedia, to discover that the population density is only 1/4 of that of Santiago, Chile. Ha Noi is very different from our own life experience, almost everything is new and our senses are being stimulated by the food, the traffic, the people, the red and yellow, and our eyes and hearts are open to all it has to offer.
Our first morning, waking up in our rented apartment/, provided us with a view across West Lake, Tây Hồ locally. The sunrise rivalled many sunsets in Hawaii, the beautiful colour due to the morning mist. Work begins early and ends late, construction starts at about 5 a.m. and can continue late into the night, seven days a week, lots of manual labour and no sign of a 40 hour week for many of our neighbours. Almost every home has a business operating out of the ground floor rooms: coffee shops next to granite cutting, next to moped repair and Phở restaurants, mini-Marts and vegetable shops. There are areas of town that seem to specialize in one thing so you will find Camera Street, Toy Street and Shoe Street in the Old Quarter. All over the city, mopeds and bicycles, pedestrians and cars, buses and taxis all compete for space on the road. After the first week the initial sense of total chaos is fading and it is interesting, as the patterns become clearer, to observe how well the traffic really flows. We have seen up to 5 people riding one moped, mopeds towing trailers full of sand and dragging hundreds of pounds of rebar behind them. Mercedes, BMWs, Lexus, three Bentleys and an Aston Martin crawl by in stark contrast as they push their way through the traffic; the buses are an awesome way to get around town, just 7000 VND (U$0.33) and they come every 15 minutes.
The city feels very industrious and yet many take time to sit with friends at one of the many places along the street to enjoy a cup of Ca Phe or green tea and people watch. Everyone we have met has been very friendly, there is a great national pride
In many ways we are experiencing a lot of freedom and lightness of spirit, there is genuine openness to Tây, westerners. There is a growing middle-class in Vietnam, we regularly see joggers and recreational cyclists passing our home on their way around the lake; many tourists are visible in the Old Quarter; and there is a sense of hope and power.
That’s all for now, until next time be blessed and be a blessing, A&G.
Some pictures from around town…