Saturday, January 17, 2015

Messing around in (and around) Hanoi

Written from Hanoi, the evening of the 16th of January 2015, where the weather continues just fine (though all the local people are freezing I think. . .wearing woolly coats with fur ruffs and collars).  It's foggy or overcast and cool in the morning and just pleasantly warm (if you're from Seattle) in the afternoon.  I certainly would have been happy to have this when I was slogging through the soggy Northwest a week ago, but. . .anyway, it's nice now.

I could take this quiet moment and just list all the places I've walked (I must be an eighth of an inch shorter anyway. . .just from wearing off shoe leather) and ridden in search of one thing or another, but I have seen some fun things and taken photos of some of them. . .so how about if I skip the lengthy talk and just show you some of my favorite photos from the past week. . .

Finding this fellow and watching him dissect my favorite camera down to its smaller bits and pieces was my first order of business once I was back in Hanoi.  Sometime after the 6000th photo and 19,000 of riding through whatever came, she stuck her tongue out at me and went on strike. . .Er. . .well, stuck her lens out at me anyway.  I always care a "spare" but not the quality of this old Canon. . .I'd made do with a substitute for too long, so spent half a day or a bit  more finding this gentleman..  It took him most of two hours, $30, and a miniature wiring harness he actually had in stock.  Wow.  The poor camera was spread over all of his workbench and a couple of nearby shelves before she started going back together.  There were no screws left over, I watched.

Tet is less than a month away and the decorations shops along one long street near my hotel are stocked to the brim.

Sometimes only a nap will do.  I pestered a lot of shop keepers the past few days, but let this one keep sleeping.  Had I been a prince of course, it would have been different.  

This one is for my Uncle (Aunt really) Margaret, who has collected blue and white ware for years.  This is just a tiny bit of the selection in Bat Trang village. . .where most of Viet Nam's crockery comes from.  

Rinsing off the out-door display at a main street shop in Bat Trang "ceramic village".  The presence of clay and clay slip is felt everywhere. . .the stuff is either being poured, turned or sculpted in every back alley workshop for a long ways (village??  I've seen smaller towns!!)  However, it's also dusty when it's not raining, so the outdoor displays need freshening every day.

I really like this particular wall. . .it was sculpted all in one piece, low relief, then cut artistically into small puzzle pieces to fire and glaze.  In use, it would be set like tile into the wall of a home or shop.  $350 for this one, and a crate to pack it in and the freight for half a ton of crockery. . .I could easily be persuaded!

Or I'd like these cranes. . .

And this little town scene is sweet, though the artist got carried away with the curves in the roof lines!!

The narrow streets don't show in "Google Maps" but thread all through the town.  This would count as a major thoroughfare.  Interestingly, the entire "pottery village" is on the wrong side of the levee, looking right at the Red River and must flood in many years.  heck, the city on the RIGHT side of the levees manages to flood now and then. 
Leave the bike in low gear or 2nd and just idle through the streets and lanes.  Lovely.
I dismounted and strolled a while by the river side and up a brick lined lane.   It became obvious she was shadowing me, hiding behind columns, walking ahead and then waiting til I caught up and passed, or just following a discreet distance behind.  Never a smile, no eye contact, no greeting.  So I stopped and asked her about the small pagoda across the street and she answered me with a lecture that went on and on and on. . .and which I understood . . .almost not at all.  Sigh

And she never really smiled, all through the lecture or the photos I took.  An earnest and sweet child, just not going to smile at white guys today.  

Well, the name of the town is "Bat Trang" and this is clearly a bat. . .but the word isn't "bat" in Vietnamese, so I suppose it's just one of those little coincidences in life.  Fun though.

These are not artificial!  The flower market opens right around midnight by Long Bien bridge (the one that was designed by the same fellow as the Eiffel Tower).  Many of the flowers go directly from the truck to motor or push bikes and move out onto the streets to find their home for a day.  If you stand still a while they'll come to you.   The roses certainly only come from Dalat. . .other flowers perhaps from nearer.  You can grow a rose in Hanoi, but it takes dedication.  In Dalat, they grow them by the mountainside.

I've never actually attended the fruit and vegetable market, if there really is one for the whole city.  I think perhaps, unlike the luxury flowers, the veggies come in from all sides and all over.  In any event, there's no need to go out for days produce, just keep an eye out on the street and it will all come by as the day goes on.  Meat too of course, and fish and crockery and shoes and toilet paper.  Mind you, it's fun to go to the market, but if you can't leave the house for a bit it's quite all right.

Across the river from Hanoi on the way to Bat Trang, a very large and recent pagoda-school complex occupies a quarter of a city block.  In many ways it is very different from typical pagodas around the countryside.  I, of course, don't have any idea of the significance of the differences, though the monks and nuns and laypeople seem to be very much the same as in any other.  In any event, it's a very pleasant place to visit and think a while.  One must of course remove one's clod hoppers when going inside, but that's fine.  

Among the statuary, to the left of the large golden Buddha, is this calmly fierce person riding a lion and carrying an unsheathed sword.  

But to the right is this kind and gentle lady riding a peace loving elephant, Quan Yen I think.  Someone help me with the imagery here!
Fun roof and balcony lines in the large new pagoda complex. .  .

They have a large arbor filled with orchids and flowers. . .

It's not Bougainvillea, but the color is right and it's pretty enough to count toward your total I think.  He who dies with the most bougainvillea. . .

These may as well be house plants from home. . .but if so, they're bigger than I'm used to seeing there.

A pet store on a bike.  This is a common sight in Hanoi. . .less so elsewhere, or perhaps I've just missed them.  Contemplating all those bags of fish and water swaying above the rear tire of a bicycle. . .is enough to cause sea sickness as well as free surface effect combined with  a huge overturning moment. . .the people do not execute wild maneuvers with the bikes loaded like this!!  This is a push bike, but I've seen the same arrangement on a Honda.  Omigosh.

It's really a nice way to display gold fish for a while  If they look a bit lazy and there's a customer handy, it just takes a nudge of the bag to show they're plenty lively.  Decanting an individual fish from a floppy bag is a neat trick, but not to worry, the young lady can manage it.
Name this Tune!  or motorcycle anyway.  Several knowledgeable people started by calling it a BMW and then backed off when they looked closer at the motor. . .pretty obviously a Honda engine from say 1965 or 1970.  My bet is it's a German frame (or a Russian or Chinese copy maybe) whose engine died conclusively and has been replaced by the Honda.  Definitely a dinosaur in any event, and no, I wouldn't trade my Chinese bike for her.

Between Hanoi and Thai Nguyen on Highway 3.  The white stupa and Buddha are pretty obvious from the road, but the compound is hermetically sealed.  It's certainly a different statement of the theme!

A really busy little corner of a stream.  Looking at the map, it might be "Song Cua" or "Cua River", or maybe not.  North of Hanoi on QL3, en route to Thai Nguyen

Offloading bagged cement (?--I can see the bags but can't read the labels) in the foreground and loading coal in the background.  Busy bit of river.

A boiler in the back room of a big restaurant. . .

runs live steam to these cooking vessels, where the cooks can simmer (or vigorously boil) huge pots of dinner. . .or warm up a single portion (my fish and sweet and sour ribs, just for example.  Excellent spicy ribs.  Indeed!)

These ladies were working their way steadily through a whole barrel of these fish.  Scaly buggers, they take a lot of work to get ready for the table.  The two youngsters (and the manager) really thought I should marry the oldest of the three and take her with me.  My usual excuses worked.  Sort of.  Anyway, I got away safely and only as married as I was before.