As the cool air has come to Hanoi, I can walk more often and explore areas further from where we stay. My morning brisk walk this time took me first to the Hoa Lo Prison, which many people still remember as the “Hanoi Hilton” where Senator McCain and other American pilots spent some years. But after taking this picture with our place at the background, I decided to keep on with my morning march. I had been to Hoa Lo several times and will share more in other pages.
By now (8am) the streets are busy, cooking or eating breakfast. Almost all the outdoor perches and stools are taken and the raucous sound of slurping Pho is everywhere. The breakfast crowd is a cross section of the city as no one eats at home. I see women feeding their kids, maybe before leaving them with their parents while they go to work. Students crouched down with the international look of teenage angst as another school day creeps up.
The streets are full of assorted transport heading off to work and school, but the winner is the motorbike. Countless swarms of them ferrying two or four people at a time. It is a bit more orderly now than 10 years ago but it is each rider for herself. The crowd seems to stop, well, mainly when the lights turn red but not quickly as everyone wants to be the last through. What I like is when the traffic distracts me, there is always someone crossing who reminds me, it is time. They speak to me in Vietnamese but I understood.
My next stop is with a group of women vendors. They now are ready with their smile as they remember me in previous shopping adventures. Often they have bicycled several kilometers to get that street corner and have been up for hours. The papaya lady had really fresh fruit and someone is already buying so I looked at her change after she gave her payment and I chose my two good size ripe papayas for $1.50. Here’s a picture of how good and fresh they are.
Then, I see another lady with lettuce and coriander, so for $0.75 cents, I got a sizeable bunch of both. I bargained for her flowers but we did not reach an agreement so off I went hoping to find a flower vendor. I was not the only walker. Older women like me were all doing the exercise strut as well. I think there is now a growing awareness of the need for older people to be mobile, to exercise. We smile at each other in recognition of our common need.
As I looked up from my careful watch of the sidewalk traffic, I saw I was in front of the Women’s Museum which I think is one of the best cultural museums in Hanoi. It was still closed but I can already see the staff coming in. Some were enjoying coffee at the Museum Cafe. I took another picture as the front of the museum which is usually crowded is now empty.
Finally, I found a flower vendor. I avoided her before as her flowers were often expensive but as I was getting close to home I was out of options . This time, she had a nice smile and started with a good price so I did not even bargain.
Happy and satisfied having spent only $6, I waved my flowers to the staff as I entered our hotel knowing that they always love to comment. This time, we exchanged how we call the flowers in English and Vietnamese. I feel bright and sprightly and refreshed. I think they see an old lady with a big smile and an addiction to flowers. Here are my flowers gracing our suite.
Make your travel exciting and fun by trying out new things and experiences. Create memories you will forever treasure.
Try exotic food. It will not kill you. Meet new people, especially those very different from you.
Travel to destinations beyond what you might have considered in the past. You may find that as you go and explore, you adopt another culture's food, daily living style, business practices or spiritual beliefs as part of your own.
Nothing beats the taste of fresh mangoes. This is especially true when you eat them at just the right point of ripeness which I know is different for everyone. I like my mango not so ripe so I can taste a bit of sourness to balance the sweetness. Still, you have not really tasted mango if your only experience is the ones we get in supermarkets in North America or Europe. They have travelled far and have lost their freshness. So, next time you travel to places where mango is grown, get one and taste its fresh, heavenly flesh.
I still hanker for the taste of the tree ripened mangoes we would gather early morning under our mango tree. We headed there as soon as we woke up and when we're lucky one of those that ripened in the branches we could hardly reach. I still remember the smell and the taste.
Where I grew up, each village claimed they grew the best mango. Who knows. And I thought that my country had the best mango until I visited Pakistan and happened to be there for the mango season. The hotel laid out various kinds of mangoes, at least 60 types. Some, I have never seen or tasted before. What a revelation. One bubble burst but wisdom gained.
For those who love travel, here are some of my top recommendations of places to visit.
Click on the picture to know more of these places: