The markets started at the civilised hour of 9.30am and I put in an appearance shortly thereafter. Foolishly I purchased a cup of the Koto drip filter coffee which just about took my head clean off my shoulders! Wow, Vietnamese like their coffee strong with a capital S! There were stalls with honey, fruit liquors, breads and pastries, wines ( I turned down an offer of a sample..9.30am is a little early even for me!) fresh veges, the bio dynamic chooks, some crafty stuff and a stall selling silk scarves.
After a bit of schmoozing and finishing my brain busting coffee I decided that it was time I started for home. I'd seen that there was a back way that bypassed some of the worst of the noisy road and took off. Somehow (geographically dyslexic? me?) I took a wrong turn and came out by the lake that we had walked round the weekend before. So I took this as a sign that I shouldn't just go home, but strike out and do something adventurous on my own...and I did. The walk was by no means as long as last week, but I did see some cool sights. I passed the gorgeous pagoda we'd seen. It had two lovely towers housing massive bells, I imagine to call the faithful to worship?
|Look at the size of the bell behind the fish|
|I got a bit artsy here, but it shows off the lovely carving of the dragons really well.|
|Don't you love the kid with the bouquet - (love the shoes)...and isn't the bride immaculate?|
If there's one thing that I've noticed it's that Vietnamese of all ages love posing for photos. You often see groups of teenagers and young adults taking posed shots of each other. They are deadly serious and very unselfconscious about it. It has truly been elevated to an art form here. Even little babies seem ready to pose. When having coffee with David and Amanda one weekend we saw a wee girl of around one with her Dad who was taking a series of shots of her doing just about anything. Whenever he pointed the camera at her she made a V sign and held it to the side of her head...some kind of 'homie' pose? It cracked us up that even at that age she was ready and able to 'create the shot'.
The promenade around the lake is a popular thing with expats and Vietnamese alike. After the traffic polluted air near the main roads (that means pretty much everywhere in the city) the air near the lake is seen as somehow cleaner. Whether it is may be up for debate but the view is certainly a lot better. So you see families, young lovers on scooters (apparently this is one of the few places that PDA's are permitted.), expats cycling for health reasons, Vietnamese cycling for work reasons, in fact just about everybody. My stroll took me through the carpark of one of the big hotels and I spied this fellow repairing the roof tiles. Take a look at his 'safety harness'...
|This gives you an idea of how high up he was...|
|Can you see the 'safety harness'? A bit of rope, it would have stopped him falling but it would have bloody well hurt when it did!|
|As they say here "Oi Doi Oi" (pronounced oy zoy oy) which is roughly translated at 'Oh my god'. The guard in the carpark laughed when he heard me say it upon seeing this brave fellow.|
I'd decided to have lunch at the Hanoi Cooking Center. This is a cooking school and Cafe run by Tracy who was the first trainer at Koto. She and her husband decided to stay in Hanoi with their little one and her cafe is a favorite haunt of locals and tourists alike for the great food, relaxed atmosphere and for The Bookworm, a great bookshop and exchange that shares the site.
Just before I got there I spotted this stunning creature.
|Isn't he gorgeous?|
He was wandering along all alone till a young lad zoomed round the corner and grabbed him. He had done a runner it seems. The affection the boy held for his dog was heartening, he didn't hit it or yell at it just gave it a pat and clipped on a rather large chain lead. Then they took off at a run...only way to excersize something this big I guess.
|I love this shot...he lolloped along like a big bear...|
I miss all my fuzzy housesit kids in Sydney so it took all my control to stop myself from racing over for a cuddle. As you can see I settled for lots of pictures.
|It is seriously rare to see a dog this size, even the locals were rubber necking.|
|He was soooo hard to resist but I did...|
I watched with amusement as Tracy and her team dealt with a kids birthday party and cooking class. She does the kids cooking classes regularly but this one was a special request and all the kids knew each other...which ratcheted up the excitement and noise levels quite a bit.
I had done a brief mudcake class at the Donkey Bakery on the Friday and Luyen had offered me the opportunity to join them when they gave a kids party for 20 under 7s on the Saturday! She had looked at me a little strangely when I told her that she had just described living hell for me!!! I like kids but not in huge numbers with sugar added! Too exhausting.
It was ironic then that my serene Sunday was infact shared with a group of 12 under 6s! But at least I didn't need to be involved other than putting up with the noise and watching with some trepidation as the sillier of the boys insisted on ignoring the entreties of the adults to hold onto the hand rail as they scrambled up and down the spiral metal staircase from the kitchen to their party room.
When it was finally over Tracy invited me to join her in a glass of Aussie white and we had a nice chat and got to know each other a bit better. All in all a lovely day topped off with the kind offer from Tracy to join her family and friends for xmas day...orphans xmas...nice one!
After all that food I walked home. Nghi Tam (the street my hometel is on) is a long road with an interesting variety of shops, it's not like the Old Quarter where you get rows of shops selling the same things but you will get a few similar ones. There is a couple of 'antique' shops, (the inverted commas are because I watched with amused fascination one day as a young woman touched up the distressed gilt on an 'antique' wood carving - caveat emptor! ) whether the goods are old or not they are certainly beautiful or in the case of this fellow, quite arresting...what a face! I thought he was worth a photo, I hope you agree.
|He'd certainly scare off burglars wouldn't he?|
By the way, I seem to have overcome my fear of eating out alone, In the past week I've enjoyed Com Rang (fried rice) at a cafe near the training center where the staff were cracking up at 'America's funniest home videos' and kept looking at me, smiling and nodding as if to say...you lot are so funny! I've also found a great Bi Tet (steak sandwich) place near home. This is a Vietnamese steak sandwich where you are served a bit of beef, some salad (often just tomato and cucumber slices) chips and bread. I've had it three times in three different places and I liked my latest find the best. The thin but tender steak came with a garlicky pepper sauce, the salad was a finely shredded coleslaw with a vinaigrette, the chips were crispy and it came with two warm, crusty bread rolls...all for 60,000vd ($3) Bargain! I know it dosen't seem very adventurous but we get real Vietnamese for lunch every day at the training center...and I mean real Vietnamese so dinner can afford to be a bit less 'exciting'.
I've been a real slack-arse today. I did complete an order for 14 small cakes this morning, decorating them with a piped chocolate flower design, but after that I ran away. The oven in the training center died yesterday so I saw no reason to hang about feeling frustrated. Anyway I washed up at the Koto restaurant in town after hitching a ride from the training center with the lovely Ms Nga. Ms Nga was going back to work as Koto's day shift restaurant manager.
I've spent my day reading, eating, watching the staff put up xmas decorations and writing this blog. That would have been the extent of my productivity had Amanda not told the staff that...Ms Ngaire LOVES putting up decorations...Ms Ngaire LOVES xmas! Yeah right - thanks Amanda! But how can you say no to such beautiful souls who truly do enjoy all the glitz and glitter that goes with xmas here in Vietnam.
|The lovely Ms Thuy in front of her beautifully decorated bar.|
It's ironic that I thought I was escaping xmas by coming to a largely non christian country yet they throw themselves into the season far more than we do in Oz. I'm waiting to see my first delivery santa...apparently the delivery drivers (on their motorbikes) often wear santa suits closer to xmas! Everywhere you look there are jolly fat men in red suits (electronic not real), xmas trees; white plastic, green plastic and even real, with flashing fairy lights, drifts of snowflakes, and more tinsel and glitter than the Mardi Gras parade. One day I'll take a series of photos and share all the joy with you all! My subtle contribution to the glory of Koto Bar at xmas was making little santa hats for the etchings on the windows and the Koto emblem on the front of the bar. The emblem is a very clever depiction of the kids...it's on the aprons, hats tee shirts and beer coolers (all the most useful of souvenirs).
|Stylish or what?|
|Looking from the stairwell into the bar. It's surprisingly hard to take a photo of something on glass...doh!|