Today a lime seed fell into my fruit shake, where it threatened to clog my straw and cause all sorts of trouble. Without even thinking about it, before it sank below the foamy froth at the top, I plucked out the slippery little bugger with my chopsticks.
I’ve never had an easy time with crowds, noise, hustle, and bustle. My mother once told me that I complained, at the end of my first day in kindergarten, that it was too loud and busy. That just about sums up my first reactions to Hanoi. I’m grateful to spend an hour in the sanctuary of the theater, watching water puppets enacting scenes of rural life in Vietnam. I take refuge in coffee shops, or on restaurant balconies above the din of the streets. From there, I observe and at last, I start to get it.
Here’s how to cross a street in Hanoi. Unless there’s a bus or a truck bearing down on you, just step off the curb and head straight for your objective. DO NOT stop, run, change direction, hesitate, or waver. As long as you maintain a constant vector, everything else will adapt and flow around you. (Except buses. They will run you over.)
Try not to flinch as two motorbikes graze your legs on either side, while a tuk-tuk cuts across right in front of you. Don’t bother looking over your shoulder at the taxi tooting its horn—the driver is just warning you not to turn or slow down, because in less than a second, he’s going to zoom through the space you are currently occupying.
Find a crowded sidewalk restaurant and plop yourself on a “chair” on the curb like you own the place. Order a beer (less than 50 cents) and one of the first three items on the menu (less than $4) whether you can figure out what it is, or not. Drink your beer (cheap! beer!), eat whatever they put in front of you (delicious!), and enjoy watching the people and traffic whizzing by just inches away. Pay your bill with exact change if at all possible. Try to stand up from your perch, inches above the ground, without using the precarious stacks of merchandise or the motorcycle parked next to you to haul yourself up. Step out boldly, undaunted, towards your next destination, deftly skirting those gawking, stumbling tourists with the deer-in-the-headlights expressions on their faces.
It takes nerves of steel, but just like eating with chopsticks, practice makes perfect. By our second evening in Hanoi, I was starting to love the craziness of it.
Yeah, Hanoi is alright.This entry was posted in Honeymoon 2013