Thursday in Hanoi

The morning is cloudy or rather overcast but the sun is an orange ball in the sky reflecting on the lake. Decided to take a picture standing barefoot on balcony.  The floor is cold.  Brrrrr.  Note to self – put on shoes or at least slippers when stepping outside onto balcony in January.

Usual taxi ride but tons of traffic and lots of stopping.  Probably more because I am later than usual than the fact that there are more cars and motorbikes.  Saw two cars, both white though that has nothing to do with what I noticed, trying to turn left into oncoming traffic.  That wasn’t working well for them so they decided just to turn left and go up the sidewalk instead.  That didn’t work out too well but before I could get a picture other cars pulled in front and I couldn’t see anymore.  Those cars were black but that too has nothing to do with what I was saying – just noticed that.

Got to school and was hugged by two of my lovely girls.  They told me that our Drama Queen had cried all the way to school on the bus because her grandparents had left to return to Ho Chi Minh City.  They have been visiting for a month because of the new baby.  DQ (not Dairy Queen for those of us who are Canadian) then ran to me threw her arms around me and proceeded to sob into my neck about her loss.  JM then stated the obvious,  “Stop crying.  They are not dead just went back home!”  I totally agreed but as a loving teacher I could say what was in my mind.  Oh the sacrifices we educators make.

Climbed the 98 stairs though A insists that it is just 96 – who cares – it is still a lot.  Turned on the heat which I just recently discovered to take the chill off the air.  Now I am far too hot but too lazy to get up and turn it off so will wait for the darlings to get up here and have one of them turn it off.  Probably the DQ.

So they arrived and are now noisily getting ready to go to PE.  Praise be – I can have breakfast which will be an omelet I ordered from the downstairs Bistro and am having delivered.  I love some things about this school.

So time for breakfast.  Time to review the Listening Test that the kids will sit after PE.  Time to begin the day.

And a stroll.

I realized after I posted the last item I had forgotten the “and a stroll” part. So here we are again. I decided to take a walk to an ATM as I need cash. I went for a walk and lived to tell about it. The following are pictures of my half a kilometer stroll on the street outside the hotel in Old Hanoi District.

Check out the blue barrels on the back.


Below – On the sidewalk as you wouldn't want to block the street. So pedestrians walk in the street with all the traffic.


As a friend said, “free range fowl”


Can you see the mass of electrical wires? How do they know which one to fix?


Don't know what it is but liked it. Totally out of place with all the tall rectangular buildings.


Apartment Viewing and a stroll

Yesterday was an interesting day as I began to explore a bit of Hanoi. Invited to join one of the teachers and his fiancée we met up with the landlord I had been emailing. He very sweetly got a taxi once I joined them and took us to lunch over by the school. Turned out I wasn't very hungry but the food was good.

Then it was time to go and see his apartments. He kept talking about Westlake being the best area and I had heard that. Imagine my surprise that when we went to view the apartments there were no elevators. The first apartment was interesting. You walk in through a Vietnamese family's house/ business where everyone is sitting watching TV and welcoming us and then start to climb the brown stairs. Round and round we go – it reminded me of climbing Brock's Monument in Niagara decades ago. At least at that historical climb there wer railings not so one this climb. There were plastic covered wires that acted as the railings. Help!

All of a sudden we stopped and I realized that a sliding door had opened and there were shoes on the step. We must have arrived. Took off my flip flops and walked into a very bright completely redone apartment. What a view! The entire far wall was windows and it was so bright you would need shades to stay in the living room. By shades I mean sunglasses…. It was so hot I was dying from the humidity.

We visited another apartment in a nearby building that was still occupied by very messy foreigners. But even though it was 2 bedrooms I was not willing to pay the price that was being asked. By now I had come to one conclusion – the most important thing on my list was no longer the number of bedrooms but a lift/elevator. While the rest of the group continued on to look at other apartments I decided to park myself outside at a table by the lake. Imagine my joy when I found out that there was a large fan plugged in that I could turn on and use. So with sweat (forget the polite word perspiration) drenching me I sat down on a chair, pulled up another one for my feet, turned on the fan and looked at the lake.

When they returned we hopped in the waiting taxi and came back to the hotel. The landlord seemed a bit perturbed with me that I had not indicated the importance of a lift. Well, I had forgotten that often there no elevators in Asia. He was very negative about me finding a place with an elevator and nothing near the lake which is the prime area (he said) for expats. He also told me that they would be very expensive and out of my price range.

A bit discouraged but happy to be back at the hotel I said goodbye to everyone and went up to my room to shower and sleep.

Thank goodness for Brad but that is another story.


On the way to Hanoi

After a lovely five days in Hong Kong with two special friends from my Beijing days I am in the air flying to Hanoi. It has been a bit of a bumpy flight for the few minutes as we worked our way through heavy clouds. We are now flying over the clouds and there is beautiful blue below us with white puffs of clouds dotted here and there.

I always stress out about the checkin and last night and this morning was no exception. That was not needed as the taxi arrived on time. It was an interesting ride to the airport. A trip that should take about 40 minutes was accomplished in 25 minutes door to door. We literally flew across Hong Kong. I glanced at the speedometer now and then and it was between 140 – 160 kph. I decided that I would just concentrate on texting.

Check in was a breeze once they realized that I was just recording my flight fromToronto. The best part was I didn't have to pay for the overweight baggage again. On to the gate and finally on board the plane. It turns out that the row across from me was empty so I got a while row to myself.

Well, it is breakfast time so more of my journey later.

Breakfast was very edible though I chose the bacon and eggs over the breakfast dim sum. It also included slices of fried potatoes and baby green beans. All told, it have been very impressed with my transportation from Toronto to Hanoi by Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air.

We are about 40 minutes from outside of Hanoi. I wonder when the reality of what I am doing will Dawn on me. I do know it is good to be back in Asia.

25 minutes to landing in Hanoi.

Had a great landing and disembarkation was a breeze. Very organized. It took about 5 minutes to go through customs including waiting time. I handed in my passport through a 6″ opening. I could barely see over the counter. The officer stamped it and I was on my way. I have tell you after my struggles with American customs in Miami and the waiting time in Toronto it totally blows my mind how easy it is to enter a communist country.

Then on to get my luggage. It took a while as both suitcases were very heavy and were near the end when they came out. The Hanoi airport is older. It has one of those older baggage carousels. It is one of the black ones that winds it's way through a door then in a u-turn before turning right and back out another door before it comes back in again. They are actually easier to lift off luggage as there is no lip you have to lift over. Someone helped me with my luggage and I was off.

No one wanted to check my luggage and as I started towards the glass doors there was the lovely lady from HR with my sign and the vice principal waving with a big smile. So nice a welcome. The orange mini van arrived and in we piled for the 40 minute drive to the hotel. I chatted with Charles the whole time and learned a lot.

Initial impressions of Hanoi??? Very unique with all the narrow brightly painted houses three and four stories all jammed together in a wonderful fantasy. The highways seem to be very stark. It gave me the impression of Beijing when I arrived a decade ago. I will investigate that more.

My hotel is in the old city and is unique. There is a tired elegance about the hotel with its winding wooden staircases and small floors. My favourite part is a comfortable bed. I was expecting a hard mattress so I'm delighted. On the other hand my window view leaves a great deal to be desired. A cement wall!

Outside are the sounds of a busy city with the continuous beeping of the motor bikes. No problem.. All new sounds to get used to.

After a two hour nap I investigated the restaurant and love the Hanoi spring rolls. Went out on the patio where the sounds again captured my attention. I don't have my camera so tomorrow morning I will make sure I take it with me tomorrow morning for breakfast.

After I got back to my room there was a knock on the door and I met one of the other grade five teachers and his lovely Malaysian fiancée. She is a bit overwhelmed with the noise as she is from the farmlands outside of Kuala Lumpar. We are going to have lunch tomorrow and then go and look at apartments with them and a possible landlord.

Now the city has quieted down and even though it is only 7:40 I am going to go to sleep.

More later – my first ½ in Hanoi comes to an end. I have smile on my face.