Once upon a time I had a post up called ‘The Daily Routine’ but somehow it ended up in the wrong place so I’m re-writing it, with some changes to reflect the changing times.
A day in Hanoi usually starts early with the sounds of the sports club aerobics and tennis across the lane plus the sounds of construction next door. Now the weather’s cooler I think they’ve closed the doors on the aerobics room so the pounding disco at 5:30am isn’t quite so loud. First thing is make a cup of the delicious Trung Nguyen coffee, using the local drip method.
The coffee we buy at the local supermarket comes in 5 grades; the grade 5 is velvety smooth. Be assured: we’ll be bringing pounds of this home!
While drinking coffee we usually check the local weather, the Vietnam news, news from CBC, BBC and NY Times and check our email. The Vietnam news can be quite entertaining. Check out the stories about the man who sleeps with his dead wife or the ceaseless job or trying to keep Hanoi’s streets clean(ish).
If we go to the local markets we try to get there before lunch as the vendors usually clean-up and go home for afternoon siesta. The street markets are the best (and cheapest) places to buy local produce, fruit and eggs. When we eat meat we go to a restaurant, rather than buying it from the market and cooking it at home.
Buying in the market involves hand language, displays of various sizes of bills, trying to identify what things are and a lot of laughter. Once in awhile a student who speaks English happens along and helps us out. Often we end up with far more of one thing than we meant to buy. Occasionally we may pay too much, but usually the vendors seem to charge us a reasonable price and are quite happy to see us. Laden with our purchases we return to our apartment, sometimes emerging once more to buy those things we can’t get in the street market. Recently we started buying the large, 5 gal., bottles of water which we then haul back. You don’t want to drink the water from the tap. The locals don’t. Besides high levels of arsenic there’s sometimes E-Coli and other nasties.
Recently I read in the news that Hanoi is going to start cleaning up the many little lakes around the city, which means they may start dealing with the water system in general. But it could all take years. Garbage is another issue they’re talking about. Currently a lot of it just gets dumped wherever and then burned. Yesterday we passed plumes of black smoke issuing from a riverside fire on a wooden pallet, right next to a busy bridge. It’s not uncommon to see people burn paper waste right in front of their homes, or street food vendors to leave their waste on the street for the cleaners (and rats) to take care of.
In the afternoons we sometimes venture out to sightsee. Last week we visited the Temple of Literature, site of Vietnam’s first university founded in 1076. This is one of Hanoi’s most popular tourist spots and also popular with locals who go there for wedding and graduation photo shoots.