Hanoi Surprise

Ideas and Issues

lake  ho hoan kiemHanoi We arrived here last evening to the acrid smog and smoke of fires in the countryside as rice husks were being burned in piles for kilometers near the airport.  We felt coming into Hanoi like we were on bridges with grades up and down for kilometer after kilometer around water we could  not see and and houses built as if to be prepared for flooding.  This was not Ho Chi Minh City, the Asian plan Paris of the French, but a jumble of streets with twists and turns everywher leaving us dizzy by the time we were dropped off near our hotel.

This morning at dawn was a glorious surprise.  Navigating the ally ways out to a main street past the clam washers and street butchers and fruit sellers, I turned first into an old Catholic Church and walked in to hear the 30 or 40 congregants singing beautifully along with the litany as I snuck out, cap in hand.  I saw a jogger heading down the next large street and followed along behind and within blocks saw the numbers swell to thousands.

It was as if at 6am I had stumbled into Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland.  A pocket lake traversed by sidewalks at different levels and thousands taking their exercise and morning walks, mainly elderly and middle aged, but also some entire aerobics and exercise groups.  There was even a line of grey heads in a muscle beach maneuver waiting for a turn to lift the concrete weights at one spot.  Heck there were even a couple of joggers from time to time, and three younger runners who burned up the pavement on the street path.  Music was everywhere with signs of lights and other constructions to prepare for the 1000 year anniversary celebration.

There’s a strong heartbeat of the people in the dawn on the backside of “socialist market economy” as we heard it called often.  I attracted less notice than I would have in 50 other countries.  We were all just getting ready for the day in our own way.