I just paid our second month’s rent at the Canary Hotel and Apartments (‘The Canary Hotel, I remember it well’…. ) and expect we’re going to stay here the entire time we’re in Hanoi. We could find another place that’s bigger and with more personality, but we’re close to Somara’s school and we really like the Canary staff. Both Son and Ton, they two key guys at reception have decided it’s also their job to help us learn Vietnamese. Ton taught me the word for sweat today, Mo Hoi, as I was walked through the lobby dripping wet from head to toe after a workout.
Daily activities are starting to etch themselves into routines and we are getting to know our ‘hood. I don’t know what to call this area. Our district is Ba Dinh, but that’s huge, and we live off Lieu Giai, a major artery. As I’ve said before everything here is layered, including the streets. Each large road, leads to numerous secondary roads, leading to even smaller alleyways. A lot of times I feel like I’m in a corn maze. I’m still surprized by all the shops you find in the smallest of alleyways. Convenience stores, clothing and a lot of Cafes.
The Cong Cafe, about 45 seconds out our door has become a favourite. It’s a genuine hangout, a place you can play cards, or just while away an afternoon. On order are fancy coffees, smoothies, beer…I’m there (here) right now drinking an iced lemonade blend. I’d show you a picture but I sucked it back too quickly and now have a freezie headache.
The Cong looks across to the Japanese Embassy, and in the evening people exercise here or bring their kids to ride bikes. Best of all it’s where people come to play badminton.
One evening as I was strolling about in flip flops and a sundress trying to get a few photos, a man pulled me into a game of doubles. I was happy to play but then my participation in the game of doubles was protested by another man who told me to go away. He got overruled by the others and then refused to play in that match. I was uncomfortable for about 10 seconds. Perhaps he didn’t think I’d play well enough, I don’t really know what was going on, but I did just fine. My plan is to return in running shoes and shorts to whoop his butt – if he’ll ever engage. Somara and I have been back several times and she’s the one improving the most. I, on the other hand, sent 3 birdies over the fence onto the grounds of the embassy never to be seen again.
Around another corner is the Lotte (pronounced LAW-tay) Tower. It’s not just a landmark for us, but for all of Hanoi. At 65 stories, it’s close to being the tallest building in the city. Mostly an office tower, it has a grocery store and some very fancy shops…kind of a cross between Holt Renfrew and The Bay on Bloor. Eventually we’re going to check out the Dim Sum on the 36th floor plus everyone who visits will be treated to the view on the observation deck up top. Perfect for a romantic night out.
Traffic around here can be crazy, but truthfully, it’s more peaceful than where we were when we first arrived and lived in the Old Quarter. Besides watching traffic can be a bit of an activity as you never know what you’ll see driving by.
Close to the Cong, we’ve found an amazing bakery that makes delicate moist croissants for about 60 cents. I really like the man we buy milk from; his store is so full you can only open the door one way, but it’s spic and span clean and he’s got cheap cheese. I’ve made friends with a few vegetable and fruit vendors, and feel like I’m cheating if I choose one over the other. You can buy virtually anything within 1 km of our place, anything except Cheerios, haven’t found those yet.
Somara’s school Lycee Alexander Yersin is just over a 1km away. A cab there costs $1.20 but we mostly walk. We’ve discovered a nifty shortcut that winds its way through one of those corn mazes avoiding Kim Ma another major artery. There is still one massive intersection to cross, MASSIVE, and you need to take a special course to work out the traffic signals. And I’m setting myself up for trouble by telling you this, but yesterday I caved and let Somara walk to school on her own. She begged for a week and I couldn’t take it anymore. Now I need to go home and wait for her to return from school. I’m not worried and you shouldn’t be either.