|Red flags for Independence Day|
This morning we had continued the float in Halong Bay in North Vietnam, docking along with a mass of other larger sea craft which carried larger loads and had spent the night in the waters, then climbing aboard the seaplane with the same captain and once again being the only passengers, then trapsing
through the Hanoi Domestic airport quickly to our car, we drove into Hanoi for lunch at Don’s, for one of the best meals I’ve had on this trip. Don, a Canadian, was the original celebrity chef in Vietnam. His second floor restaurant (most good restaurants are on 2nd floors in Asia) is a bright environment of blues and friendly Asian staff. Not only did I get to relish once more my very favorite foods: green papaya salad, pomelo salad, but a newie - banana flower salad, a feast of julienned veggies as carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, green mango, banana flower (the bulb), but with cilantro, mint and crunched up peanuts and cashews. The fish sauce-rice vinegar-lime and sugar sauce, Yes!!
|Banana Flower Salad|
Just being in Hanoi is a treat. Streets are jammed with life. Only the brave would join the frantic but organized (sort of)
mass travel on the streets. Mostly mopeds (Hondas and Yamahas are the most popular) and automobiles must just make do, though they have the right of way. Dare to walk across the street at a zebra-stripe and you ‘ll be tangled up in mopeds and motorcycles and bicycles - no one stops, not even vehicles. But you are told just to slowly, confidentially to wade across slowly without panic and they can judge you and move around you. Whew! My Hanoi question is why are there
thousands of black cables all over the place, like they haven’t found a tube to put them all in. A friend confirmed when there is an electrical problem, somehow the repair-guys can figure out which of the hundreds belongs to you. People on the streets are bundled up like they have a disease with masks, hats then helmets over the hats, and women wear flowered cotton jackets with hoodies. I asked how can you tell if it’s your friend or not, and somehow life happens anyway. Even in China I didn’t see so many masks - many in bright fabrics. Old women in triangular bamboo hats still seem to do the carrying, balancing a bamboo pole on the back from which hang two baskets of some sort of fruit or vegetable or product. They dress in the old fashioned pajama form.
|So Many Wires|
We only had a few hours between flights, and it’s the usual slow hour to the airport, so we went to friend Suzanne Lecht’s new gallery (opening now) and talked art, while looking at her amazing two floor space filled with works by her stable of Vietnam artist. She has been their mentor and advocate since the ‘90ties and has a great grasp on who is doing what to break out in the volatile Asian art world. She gave us some names to see in Hue, our next destination.
|Le Residence on Perfume River|
We had to head back to the airport in the afternoon to catch the evening one hour flight to Hue. When we landed at the modest airport and did the old stairs-bus transfer to the baggage claim, I knew this was a city not full of itself. Our A&K guide was with us and we were welcomed by a driver and a SUV fully airconditioned. If nothing else, Hue is the hottest place in Vietnam, and that is saying something. One melts quickly and AC is not a sure thing anywhere. But the La Residence is a hotel to dream about overlooking the Perfume River. My balcony goes around the building and in the early morning air I can watch the river come alive. The architecture is white French Colonial with swimming pools and gardens and spas and tranquility inside a busy town. Most every hotel has some sort of spa. Testing that can be risky. The descriptions sound a lot better than the real thing, as I found out on an attempt at reflexology.