It was so comforting to go back to Hanoi’s hot and sweaty hug, that we decided to stay there for an extra day. Belle from the hotel greeted us with a smile and upgraded our room again.
It was rainy and the skies were grey on the way back from Hạ Long Bay. I listened to the Temple of the Dog album, and since this music reminds me of raindrops on the window and fields far away.
The rains weakened as we came close to the big city and stopped completely as we entered the old quarter, with the women cooking on the sidewalk and men getting their hair cut on a high chair in front of a mirror in the middle of the street.
It’s as if they built a city in the middle of a jungle, and between the thin houses and the busy junctions grow thick trees with climbing plants, and big bugs buzzing amongst the treetops.
It was already evening when we went to meet Nadya and Xavier, the couple from Ecuador we met at the cruise.
We sat at a small place where a teenage waiter worked and his girlfriend sat on the side. We had fried meat and curly chips and drank a lot of beer, which came with ice.
In Vietnam, they drink beer with big chunks of ice, especially in hot places. It was a bit weird at first, but pretty quickly I got used to it.
After that, we sat at a different place, where dozens of people sat on low plastic chairs on the sidewalk. They sold tap beer for 5,000 Dong a glass – about 25 Cent. Everybody in Hanoi drink the local beer, Bia Hà Nội, which is poured from big barrels and sold for cheap.
Next to us sat a big group of loud local and Europeans who celebrated someone’s birthday, and kept adding random strangers to the party, including us.
When we were completely drunk we said goodbye to Nadya and Xavier, perhaps forever.
The next morning we woke up with a slight headache from yesterday’s beer and went to a place that Belle recommended on.
It was pouring rain and when got lost until we arrived ar a nearly empty place, where a chubby limping woman served yellow sticky rice with steamed pork.
On the way back we saw a place nearby that served the same thing, with way more many people, so we thought that must be the right place.
Roni had some arrangments to do with his credit card, so I waited at a cafe near the Hoàn Kiếm lake. When he came back, we strolled around the Old District, slowly saying goodbye to the streets. I bought a book I saw a few days before, Dumb Luck by Vũ Trọng Phụng, a funny book written in 1936 that takes place at Hanoi.
We had a lazy day, since we were both a bit hungover.
In the afternoon we had coffee at a place we liked, that was run by a bunch of fat lazy men, and fat lazy cats were walking around.
At about eight PM we went to meet Belle and her friend, Hing, who waited outside with their motorcycles. Hing drove me while Belle drove Roni and they showed us parts of the city we didn’t saw, Hồ Chí Minh square and places with big fancy government buildings, and avenues with statues.
We stopped by the big lake in the western part of the city and sat in a cafe’s yellow plastic chairs, with night bugs flying around and the lights of the city reflecting in the black water.
It was a bit awkward at first. A big woman served us tea and Belle told us about her family in the village, about her studying tourism, and that she dreams about visiting Australia. Hing couldn’t speak English but she could listen and speak through Belle. They said that when women are about 23 it gets weird if they don’t get married, but they are 25 and singles and feel alright about it.
Belle said that there are seven hospitals at Hanoi, all of them in one area and each one attends a different domain, but medical treatments are very expensive and some people can’t afford it.
They brought us back to the hotel, through the busy roads, and I noticed that even though it’s crowded and full of motorcycles, nobody touches or gets close to you.
We went to drink another last Bia Hà Nội for 5,000 Dong and talked about the couple from Ecuador. I told Roni that I like women like Nadia, that eat and talk a lot, and that I liked that she wears cleavages even though she has a big scar on her chest from a heart surgery
. I thought about how fast you can get attached to people and places, and then leave as if nothing had happened.