Goodnight and Farewell China and Good Morning Vietnam!
So with the last post we were travelling to Hanoi. By the magic of media we’re already here! The train lands at Ga Gia Lam station, just outside Hanoi. However this isn’t the end of my journeying as I must catch a connecting bus towards Haiphong where I will be working in a language centre. Fortunately this wasn’t too hard as I found the main bus station and then kept showing them my destination and kept getting ushered along to the next person. Just before 6am I arrive at the correct bus (which has the blessing of air conditioning) get on and just watch the world go by.
As we get closer to Haiphong I realise the dominant mode of transport is the bike or moped. It’s quite amazing how the traffic just flows as there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of managing it.
I get picked up by one of the workers at the language centre and head over to touch base with some of the people I’ve been in contact with. I’ll talk the centre in more depth at a later date
Walking around the backstreets of Haiphong you notice this beautifully unique architecture given its surroundings and temperature. They just don’t seem to go together but create an altogether wonderful setting. Along the main strip you have these incredibly narrow, tall and deep houses set next to the road. It really lends an artistic quality to the surroundings. The tropical climate offers a really lush, green backdrop that offers shade in the oppressive heat.
I decided to head into the centre with a couple of other volunteers, and upon my decision to take a ‘short-cut’ towards a lake, we immediately got lost in a labyrinth of houses with short narrow paths that led to numerous dead ends. Eventually we found a gate to climb over which local workers seemed to encourage. Once we reached the lake it wasn’t as picturesque as one might hope but the surrounding buildings were.
We continued on towards the centre of the town as we were really beginning to starve a little bit and were in dire need of some sustenance. The only thing we had before setting off was a very cheap glass of locally brewed beer. Bia Hoi (Bia hơi) is a beer available all over Vietnam. There happens to be a brewery in Haiphong. Now I can’t usually drink beer, it makes me feel terribly sick, but I thought I’d give it a go. It is very light, not too fizzy and I was able to manage a glass, partly because it cost nothing and secondly because I was melting in the heat! From what I understand it is a beer that is brewed and served very fresh without any sort of preservatives. With this in mind it must be disposed of before the end of the day!
We decided to head down a street that my map indicated was a market. It was reminiscent of Beijing’s hutongs, but these streets were wider and the buildings less shack-like. You could find all sorts of foods, especially seafood, live lobsters and crabs of all shapes, colours and sizes, all types of mollusk and fish. I had no idea where to start so decided just to walk through observing the wonderful variety on display. Again there is this remarkable juxtaposition in pace of living between the pedestrians and the motorcyclists.
As it was still relatively early we continued walking around but were starting to notice the fatigue induced by the sweltering heat. I clenched my fingers and noticed they felt a little tingly and had actually swollen due to the heat. This is the first time I’ve experienced this sensation and it’s a little disconcerting, hopefully my body will acclimatise.
Defeated by the sun, and with lessons to teach, we decided to head back to the language centre, not before getting getting a nice Vietnamese coffee. Now I will show you the coffee I had this time, but there really is a great variety and it will deserve a post all of its own once I have collected all my data! The place we grab a coffee is very close to the centre and is called “Secret Garden” it happens to be the local haunt for a lot of the volunteers. Mostly just relaxing in the day, away from the heat, with an iced coffee and doing some reading or work. Or just sharing a good time.