Hanoi is like chocolate croissant. Kind of gold, brown and delicious. Rich and buttery. Many layered and deep within there is a semi sweetness. When you take a bite, there is a mess of crumbs flying every which way.
The Hanoi area has been settled for over a thousand years. It’s not like The Middle East where there are archeological remnants. But you can see it in the people and the traditions and habits that have been passing by like the waters of the Red River.
Driving down the road, though the population looks very young, the same farmers plow the same fields with the same buffalo and the same ladies eat the same noodles on the same stoop as farmers and ladies have for a millennia. There are old souls here with fresh faces.
The Metropole Hotel has been around since 1901 and has hosted dignitaries for decades. Joan Baez wrote songs in the bomb shelter under the pool. Charlie Chaplin spent a long time there. Obama and Trump have slept there. Men and women dress in long and stupidly impractical velvet coats and white gloves and man the doors and greet you in French. For years, after the war, countries based their embassies in many of the rooms. A stroll down the hall finds, Israel, Sweden, Germany and others marked by plaques on the walls.
The Bamboo Bar with rattan fans twirling overhead is a great poolside place to while away the evening with a cocktail. Jazz music wafts in on the breeze from next door.
On weekends, the streets surrounding nearby Hoan Kiem Lake are closed to cars and the whole region becomes a weekly gathering spot for strollers, dancers and eaters into the evening. A place to meet or exchange information from the week past. Badminton birdies fly. Da Cau, a foot shuttlecock game, is played by friends and strangers looking to learn something new.
There are more than 5 million motorbikes on the roads. It feels like they are all in front of you at any given moment when you frogger your way across the street. The air quality in winter is abysmal adding a mysterious haze that you can sometimes taste, but somehow it all comes together.
Like the pastry, if I ate more than two, I’d probably feel a wee bit nauseous and want to nap the afternoon away, but having been here a week I gotta say, that this place is under my skin. I love it.