Mama’s Bar to Hanoi

After signing off yesterday I decided to have a night-cap before turning in and so popped into a little bar just near my hotel. The patron was one of the first westerners to set up a business in Nah Trang and seemed to be a little war weary. I stayed for a while then took up his recommendation of a stop by the sailing club which is by the coast. There I bumped into some Geordie’s that were good value – it was the birthday of one of the lads so we sank a few jars and jawed a while. Later on I ended up in Mama’s roadside stall for one of the local specialities, a late night snack that included an egg and some Vietnamese style beef. Mama is a bit of a local celeb, everyone stops by here for a late night snack and the chatter is cheerful around mama’s stall. It was sitting here that we saw the sun rise, so I packed my stuff up, paid my hotel and took a taxi to the airport.

The flight to Hanoi was uneventful, I love being in the air so sat with my nose stuck to the window as Vietnam drifted by below, on arrival in Hanoi I took a room in the first available hotel then caught up in some sleep.

So my first sight of Hanoi was after dark really as I took a walk around the lovely Hoankiem Lake, traditionally the centre of Hanloi. According to the legend, emperor Le Loi handed a magic sword called Heaven’s Will which brought him victory in his revolt against the Chinese Ming Dynasty back to the Golden Turtle God (Kim Qui) in the lake and hence gave it its present name (the lake was formerly known as “Luc Thuy” meaning “Green Water”). The Tortoise Tower (Thap Rua) standing on a small island near the center of lake is linked to the legend. Sorted. Whatever the legend it is a lovely place to walk around. I had a wonderful meal in a restaurant by the lake which had a magical atmosphere.

It was here that I had that wonderful feeling of being at home in a strange place. I have come to like the Vietnamese people, they are courageous yet courteous and you get the sense of an ancient and advanced culture. It was like this as I sat in the restaurant, everything I had been told about these people came together as I sat listening to a trio playing lovely traditional music. One instrument, the Dan Bau looked like a subtle instrument to play and sounded gorgeous, I have attached a video of the music I was listening to. So, Eating lovely local food listening to subtle and elegant music with all I had been told about the Vietnamese, their courage, tenacity and beauty I momentarily grasped these people a little more than just as a witness, but these moments pass. Now I must explain this phenomenon as I don’t want it to look like i’m claiming some kind of enlightenment has gone on here, oh no, but combine a hangover and excessive tiredness together so that you can no longer keep people pidgeon holed because your brain just can’t keep it up, then the music could be an Irish reel, the noisy clamour could be a market in London, the chitter chatter anyones banter, then you see people for a moment as just people, not as little foreign fellers that keep on trying to flog you tourist maps and tarts, often in one inviting package. Once you have seen beyond the veil for a moment then the whole set of curtains is bound to come down, it’s only a matter of time.

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