Okay, I suppose I owe you an apology. Yesterday and again last night was a struggle with Blogspot.com and my poor little traveling computer. 1. I couldn't get the Blogspot dashboard to function in English (I'm sorry sir, you're in Viet Nam so you must need the dashboard in Vietnamese, Yes?) 2. I hadn't written in so long I couldn't remember the layout of the dang thing, so kept clicking awry, and 3. the poor little computer desperately wanted its updates (16 months worth). When I finally gave up and sent what I sent (3rd try) and shut down, she downloaded until past midnight. . .and this morning when I fired her up she did something like 24,584 update operations before she'd talk to me. So, it was a little rocky.
First, some explanations for the photos, in no particular order. . .Mr. Dung and the bike in front of his shop should be obvious, the pretty young couple were just one of half a dozen wedding parties doing their pre-wedding photos at Hoan Kiem Lake, the red bridge is a very famous landmark, goes from the city out onto a small temple island in the lake, which is well worth the dollar they charge these days to go out and wander around on. The kid with the dust mask and the eyes is about typical of a kid about to go for a motorbike ride. His mom is wearing the twin to my city helmet, but it's hers, mine is here. The bridge is Long Bien, a part of it that's still related to the Eiffel Tower. Somehow I'll have to get a shot from the inbound lanes of the next bridge downriver. There's no parking/stopping/walking on that one and it's hugely busy all the time, but maybe I can fake it somehow and let you see the poor lady's broken smile, with half her teeth knocked out. The two young ladies were sitting on a motorbike parked at a wide spot on the bridge and were happy to have their photo taken. On the other hand, the young lady just managing to stay on the back of the Honda and keep the big bale of goods balanced behind the driver has to do without the footpegs. The bale of stuff doesn't need them or won't use them, but on the other hand, makes it so she can't reach. She didn't know I was there and might have bopped me on the head if she'd known, but it was cute anyway. Some photographers know no shame.
So my two days in Hanoi have been, besides meeting Dung, busy with trying to wear out a pair of walking shoes, mostly for good reason, but also just to wear the body down to the point it's willing to fall asleep at night. I've been out to get a new sim for my phone (say goodbye to your contacts), to buy a pair of rain pants, to find out about a Cambodian visa (but didn't buy it yet, not sure enough of my itinerary, as though I'll ever know what it was until it's over), to buy a new left side mirror for the bike (why Dung changed mirrors I don't know, but it might have something to do with one of the minor scratches on the tank. . .h'mm).
I've successfully contacted Mr. Cuong in Halong City (the main reason for the new sim in the phone) and will meet him there tomorrow most likely. The point whereof is that he knows a model-building historian of the local fisheries and boat building culture who runs a small museum in which, so I'm told, I would have a great deal of interest. The historian in question, however, does not speak English and Mr. Cuong is a very busy man, but I expect something will work out. In any event the Halong Bay area is one of my favorite first stops every trip so even if nothing works out, something will. It's always that way.
Other than that, I have a full itinerary to the South, supposedly ending up in either Phu Quoc Island (WAY south) or Cambodia, or both, so many miles with many stops planned en route. In the meantime, I've been thinking about the finest bowl of noodles I ever ate, home made noodles in a superb broth with actual CHUNKS of meat and nice greens. . .about 350 km northwest of here in the mountains back of Bac Ha, which, come to think of it, is pretty much in the back of beyond itself. I may have to spend a few days that direction before I straighten out and head South.
Every trip when I arrive there are people I must see and say hello to. The family at the hotel of course, except for Miss Nga (24 years old now and doing an MBA in London, for goodness sake. . .she was just a talkative teenager when I first started here),Mr. Khoi, the physics professor who held my foot one stairstep at a time when my knee was broken. . .had I fallen, no doubt I'd have killed him, but his sister (the doctor) and her husband (the other doctor) had my elbows, so perhaps it wasn't that terribly dangerous, The Grandmother of the house, my first love here, 88 now and definitely getting old now, both of the Dentist-daughters, the whole bunch of them familiar as family now. . . but others too. . .Mrs. Lien the Tee shirt lady, for example, who sends me emails now and then to let me know how things are in the city. She's very sweet and sometimes even sells me a shirt (they're all too small, even the XXL's). Of course the people at my breakfast coffee shop, the proprietress and her young waitress (who never speaks to me but smiles at every move), the local Party Committee Member and his elegant wife (he speaks a little English and sometimes wears an American flag on the lapel of his suit coat), their friend the slender fellow (?) and several other regulars there. The old fellow who wears his ex army uniform and a red armband at night, manning a tiny desk along the street by the hotel. . .a neighborhood watchman. . .always is enthusiastic to see me again, and now remembers that I don't smoke. . .though he always starts to offer me a cigarette. I missed him my first evening on the street, but he ran me down last night, so all is well there (though he's lost some more teeth!!). . .and of course the gentleman in the gold shop where I change my money. He still firmly believes I work here and am kidding about being just a tourist. . .and the lady who has the internet shop I used to use all the time. Now, with this little netbook and local wifi I only stop there now and again, but she waves everytime I walk down the street.
Of course there are people I remember that don't know me. . .the tiny twins that were new born when I left 16 months ago are (surprise) about 16 months old now, still dress identically and their dad still shows them off when I remark how cute they are. Truly identical, though it was easier when all they wore was a diaper and a blanket. They are no doubt trouble brewing! I'll see if I can get you another photo of them shortly.
Last evening after supper I wandered around with the new fast lens on the old Canon EOS, just to see what it would do with available light in the city. I'll put up a few of those photos and one or two from this morning's walk for breakfast and then it's time to be on the way. Most are self explanatory. The girls were playing badminton in the street where I live. . .and the plain white shop front is the
dentist's office. "Rang Ham Mat" means "Dentist's" and if you look closely behind the wad of wires you can make out "Nha Khach My Lan" or "Guest House My Lan". Pretty much, it's a dentist's office these days!
I haven't gotten the bike out of the hotel hallway (an ordeal) or packed yet, so I'm hours from departure I suppose.