I’ve been in the apartment over two weeks now. Most of my travel has been back and forth to school and the Saturday evening excursions to the Bai Hois (more on those at a later date!). But I’m trying to get into the routine of a daily morning walk around the neighbourhood. 1: it gets me out of the apartment 2: I explore and see a typical Hanoian neighbourhood 3: I carry my camera so people get used to seeing the tall Westerner with his camera, and hopefully will get used to my taking photos of, what to them, must seem everyday kind of stuff.
Here then is a selection of some photos from my ramblings….
Morning starts early here. I wake up to the sounds of pounding disco for the sports club’s aerobics starting around 4:30-5am and then, soon after, they start work on the new building next door. Recently there’s been a lot of cement mixing as they’ve been building the brick walls up. It’s all very labour intensive: women wash down the materials for the concrete and one person runs a motor for hauling the buckets of material up on a wire to the top. Thankfully they’re not noisy everyday. Then there’s the PA speaker almost right outside my windows which blasts out music and propaganda at odd hours. But the nights are generally quiet.
Just down the lane are some fields with new buildings going up all around. This seems typical of this area: what was once farmland is now being developed with highrises. So there’s a mix of occasional older homes, fields, newer four storey homes and then the big blocks going up. In the foreground is a bit of garbage by the side of the road. I see street cleaners out all the time cleaning up but then I’ve also seen big and small piles of refuse, usually in or near empty lots.
I see people picking up and sorting all kinds of goods: cardboard, plasics, cans, glass, styrofoam etc. This appears to be large bundles of plastics waiting to be picked up.
There are lots of small shops repairing motorbikes and bicycles. Here’s a bike that’s had a lot of bits and pieces added to hold it together. At first I thought it was just superstructure added for carrying goods, then I realized much of it is actually structural.
A bicycle used for carrying feather dusters and…
bicycles used for carrying large baskets of fruits and ….
a flower vendor with a large display of flowers on the back of her bicycle. Across the road from her is the man who insisted I take her picture…
In the posed photo I took of her she’s busy waving at me which obscures her face. The fellow above was quite happy to have me take his photo; as were the fellows below.
I’d passed them once and they’d waved and called out “Hello” (very common as I pass by). The second time I passed they’d stopped for lunch and they called me over. After I took the photo they gestured, asking if I’d like some lunch. I declined but as I was leaving a man came up with a bottle of vodka and waved it at me. I demurred and continued on my way.
Often the lanes are too narrow for trucks so construction material is dumped nearby and hauled by carts to the building site. Here a young man moves rebar from the supplier on a specially designed cart. Carts are also used to move earth, gravel, bricks, cement, wood and pretty much anything and everything. Below is another modified bicycle – this one used for hauling rounds of charcoal for cooking.
I don’t know if the bicycle drivetrain would still be used as the rickshaw type handles in the front would then be rather long protrusions.
In my wanderings I’ve found some temples and pagodas. Above is one in a small lake nearby. This one, and its neighbouring, on-shore building, seem to be under renovations. The little platform in front of the pagoda hosts a half dozen turtles, sunning themselves.
This pagoda is in much better condition but its on-shore component also was being renovated.
However, by shooting at upwards angle I avoided the piles of dirt out front and captured some of the glory of the gates to the temple.
At another, larger temple, I encountered this fierce stone lion. Inside was another little lake; an oasis of calm in the Sunday chaos.
I’ve been told that very few Hanoians practice any form of religion; that Buddhism is in decline and a form of ancestor worship, such as that in China, is more popular with small shrines in people’s homes. One form of worship is very noticeable, however…
Yes, karaoke is very popular here. I’ve been asked by my students if I’d sing but have politely, and firmly, declined. The karaoke clubs are best seen at night when they’re all lit up. Soon I’ll have to do a night photography excursion. Because I work in the evenings though I haven’t had many opportunities.
And of course there’s the odd mis-spelling of Western words. I see a lots of variations on the word ‘photocopy’; guess it depends how it fits on the sign.
All in all I’m enjoying my walks around the neighbourhood. Walking I get to see more than from my bicycle and it’s a much less aggressive way of getting around. I’m hoping that as time passes people will get used to me and I’ll become less shy about photographing them. It’s the people that make a place special and most Hanoians seem quite happy to say “Hello” and smile at this stranger in the midst of their city.