Young and innocent; certainly the little girls painted on this kindergarten wall are. It's funny how they remind me of the drawings that were in the books I had in primary school; do you remember yours?
Okay, so now you know I like lakes. Here's another shot taken near Hoàn Kiếm the other day; although there are a lot of tourists around there, people were still curious when I was walking and snapping pictures.
Imagine my delight when I entered this bakery and saw those Carambars. Reminded me of primary school, when my classmates and I were almost missing the school bus after having ran to the local bakery to buy a couple of those with a few francs. Feeling nostalgic? Hmm, maybe just a little.
To cope with that, a little recipe I recently re-discovered with a friend of mine: infuse a few Carambars in a decent vodka. Wait for a few hours for it to completely dissolve, and you'll get a fine tasting, caramel-flavored vodka. Yeah, we're not kids anymore, so why the hell not enjoy that?
Some street shops really are super-specialized; proof to this point, this color painting powders shop. I'm not sure if I'll ever get to buy one of those plastic bags, but I sure know I will be dropping by again to get temporarily blind-sighted by this extravagant display!
Ask anyone who arrived in here for the first time what their first shock was, and I bet you'll probably hear about the traffic. Yep, it really is something. By all means I'm not saying that it's worse than Paris (God knows I'm scared of even thinking about driving on the Place de l'Etoile); no, I'm just saying that it is an 'organized mess'. No matter where you go, the traffic never seems to stop, and the traffic lights that happen to be on certain junctions seem to have a purely ornamental function.
At first, you'll probably be so disconcerted you won't dare to even cross the street. After a little while, you'll venture out and get a kind of thrill by just walking steadily from a sidewalk to the opposite one, with all the motorbikes avoiding you with a certain sense of grace. And after this first, you will progressively acquire this nonchalance Hanoians display when they walk on their streets.
The only thing is, when you go out of Vietnam, just forget all I said. Rules don't apply anymore out there!
Hanoi is probably the French-est asian capital there is; you can't go around town for more than an hour before hearing the sulky-ish babbling that is so typical of my native language. You keep bumping into a lot of French tourists, students, short or long-haul expats -- take your pick.
As a direct consequence (!) the wine import industry seems to be doing wonderfully well; I saw this nice wine shop in the Métropole (the classiest, Belle-Époque style hotel in Hanoi) and couldn't help but snapping this shot. These are bottles from Burgundy, where my grandparents are from. It always feels special to see something I'm so familiar with, yet while being 6,000 miles away from home.
Many say Hanoi is very often grey and cloudy. Well, I hope this photograph will help showing that's not (always) the case!
For the sake of full disclosure though, I have to confess that two hours after I took this shot, having literally cooked under the sun, I got totally drenched wet by a heavy shower on my way to lunch. But hey, unpredictability is nice, too :).
After having lived almost five years next to the equator (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand) with a constant temperature all year round (say, 30 celsius with 80% humidity) it's quite a nice change to be arriving in Vietnam where there are actual seasons.
Much to my surprise, I actually felt really good about walking around while it was drizzling; kinda felt like I was in Brittany -- damn, my Breton friends are going to kill me for just saying that.
And when the rain intensifies, you know it's time to seek shelter in a taxi to go home :).
As I am pretty new to the city, I'm still having a hard time knowing exactly where I am when I start wandering around. Thankfully this giant beacon, located on the Tortoise Tower (Thap Rua) in the Hoàn Kiếm lake, helps me out during the night. Not sure it was its original purpose - but hey, I take what I can get :).
Hanoi, a.k.a. the motorbike frenzy. Cars are so expensive here, that everybody uses a motorbike; after all you can use it in pretty much any situation, from transporting pigs, chickens, huge Styrofoam bags, to families of four or even five sometimes. I'm going to get mine soon (bike, that is).
Some bikes stand out more than others, and like a bunch of people in the city I kind of have a crush on those really cute Vespas. Don't you just love this one?
I was walking along the West lake again today, and couldn't help but noticing this lovely, retro tea lounge. Didn't have time to go in and enjoy whatever scrumptious deserts they had got, but I know where I'll go for next brunch!
Vietnam belongs to this handful of countries that are moving towards free-market economy at a blazing pace, while still keeping some very distinct traits. What could best embody that than this combination of one of Uncle Ho's giant posters, together with a billboard featuring a modern bank ad?