Even more things I like about Hanoi
(I’ve been at home, resting from all the travel. In a few days I leave for Myrtle Beach, then Istanbul. More regular posts will begin then.)
I try not to rank places, because the relationship between a city and its residents is far more complex than a number. Certainly one assigned by me, an outsider with odd preferences. I mean, not everyone likes walking ten miles a day, so it would be silly of me to assign a place a score.
Especially a low one. Because most cities work, at least for their residents. Culture shapes cities, and cities in turn shape culture, and over time, the result is usually a happy fit.1
Also, people are resilient and make the best of whatever situation. So even brutally ugly cities have absolutely wonderful and beautiful things.2
Yet, as I wrote in my piece on Lạng Sơn, despite being a cultural nomad, I’ve got a culture, I’ve got biases, and I’m a numbers guy, so consequently I’ve got a little internal ranking of where I’ve traveled and Hanoi is near the top. If not at the very top.
The result is I miss Hanoi constantly. Mostly I miss its generosity, especially in contrast to the very wealthy, rather unhappy US, where I’ve been for the last month.
But like a lost love, it’s the smaller things I miss most. Some of which I wrote about while in Vietnam.
Here are four more of those things. None is particularly huge, but in aggregate they make a city and culture that really works for me. For whatever reason.
(And also a small list of things I don’t like about Hanoi. It can’t all be good!)
The beer halls are everywhere in Hanoi, although hall isn’t really the right word. More like “beer small rooms open to the street with plastic tables and tiny plastic chairs that sprawl out onto the sidewalk, and sometimes into the road.”
They serve only one beer on draft, Bia Hà Nội, which is constantly and noisily delivered by trucks. The metal kegs rolled across the street, into the hall, then into a refrigerated cabinet to be tapped by a young man or woman filling chipped glass after chipped glass, plastic pitcher after plastic pitcher, from a hose, only momentarily stopping the flow with a pinch of the tube.