WHAT IS "SHOE BOXES ON END"?

Trip Start Apr 04, 2008
1
6
15
Trip End Mar 31, 2009


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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hanoi deserves more than the one line, "Hanoi is shoe boxes on end and lots of old trees and lakes."

Hanoi is quaint. It has an old town that is old Vietnam, narrow streets that can barely accommodate the millions of motor scooters, lakes and big old trees abound, and new construction, hotels and shops add to the mix.

What is "shoe boxes on end"?

They are Vietnamese dwellings and shops--four and a half meters wide, up to six stories high, with painted facades and usually unpainted sides that run as deep as 15 meters--from the front all you see is side-by-side skinny buildings that look like shoe boxes on end.

Got in to Hanoi at 4:30 a.m. and milled (with a number of other folks) around the train station till dawn when women showed up bearing head baskets full of baguettes for 6 cents a piece. Then stored my luggage at a shop across the street and milled some more--looking at trees and lakes--until 11:00 p.m. when the train left Hanoi for Saigon, 1723 km and 30 hours away.

The train station had ticket sellers at 11 windows, and people were standing at 3 of them buying tickets--step right up. Walking, the streets are uncrowded because most people are riding motor scooters. Cafes abound, some with neon signs like "Spaghetti, Steak"!

I'm in an internet cafe, 10 computers, beautiful tiled floors (reddish chipped marble pattern) and pastel red-orange walls decorated with framed pictures, a pendulum clock, and a street lamp. I'm sitting in a rattan chair, there's a nice bamboo-plaited bar with cokes and bottled water available.Only one other person  is in this "home internet cafe," windows open, a breeze coming through.

Outside it's 25C and rising, the air is damp, warm, and close. It's like I'd never left, and it's great to be back.
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