Hanoi, Tam Coc, and a not-so-brief digression concerning Alanna’s aesthetic tastes

Ladies & Gents,

May I present to you: Hanoi! The city that 7 million people (and 3.5 million motorcycles) call home.

before rush hour

I loved it there. Loved it. The extent to which I didn’t even realize until I arrived in Saigon (which is basically as though New York and Bangkok had a child together — an insomniac, motorbike-racing child with ADHD).

In Hanoi, the stores and hotels are extremely narrow, tall affairs, due to the fact that at some point in the past (no one could seem to produce the exact year), shop owners were taxed on the width of their establishment. Anyway, the upper levels of the buildings are all styled after the French Empire and in various states of dilapidation, providing  much architectural distraction for yours truly.

number one reason why I almost get hit by motorcycles

In the Old Quarter in Hanoi, each street belongs to a different trade. After a number of days there, you find your directions taking the shape of: “Ah, yes, the museum! Just go down bamboo street until it meets red drum street, make a left onto button street and if you keep walking about five minutes that way, you should find it, just next to copper bowl street.”

Bamboo Street

Christmas Street (actually several blocks)

But what I loved the most about Hanoi was the endless posibility of surprise. Each street had its own niches, its own pockets of quiet, just waiting to be discovered. You could escape the traffic and the bustle just by popping into one of the many pho shops and sharing a bowl with the locals who’d stopped in for a quick snack. Likewise, on the street dominated by jewelry shops, there existed a house whose entire second floor was converted into a shrine, and you could wander in and out without encountering a soul.

little alley behind the main market

behind the main market

a couple getting their engagement photos done by Hoan Kiem Lake

the shrine inside of the little house on Jewelry Street

Perhaps my favourite place was the cafe hidden near the main roundabout, where you had to bypass the tailored clothes and tourist trinkets in the storefront, pass through a narrow hall, and then order your drinks on the ground floor of what turned out to be a secret cafe with a great view of the lake.

Sam coming down from our secret cafe

–Sorry, re-reading that passage made me realize that it’s long past time to change the subject. Moving on!

One of the day trips I took out from Hanoi was to Tam Coc, in Ninh Binh province. This area is sometimes known as ‘Halong Bay on the Rice Paddies.’ The same incredible karsts abound, only this time you get to explore them in a rowboat along the Ngo Dong river, or on bicycle.

p.s. I forgot to mention that everybody rows with their feet

Tam Coc

yep, it's pretty gorgeous

and there was SUNSHINE! real sunshine!

Improving slightly in the concision department: it was lovely! Finis.

Anyway, as Sam mentioned, we were dropped off in Hue for about four hours by fortuitous accident. The mausoleum of Tu Duc was by far the most beautiful of all the sites/temples/shrines/you-name-it that I’d seen in Asia. This was, of course, due largely in part to my own personal aesthetic, which happens to go wild anytime you find some combination of the following: turqouise, brick, moss, dilapidation of any kind, ponds, blocks of colour, slight drizzly weather, etc. etc. etc.

inside the temple for the "minor wives"

the complimentary-coloured Mr. Wilson


still at Tu Doc

Tu Doc, for a change

this may seem impossible to believe, but for every photo I'm posting of this place, DOZENS are being omitted

Sam basically had to drag me away.

p.s. we also went to this gorgeous place called Thong Bao

around the grounds in Thong Bao

immersed shrine (?) around Thong Bao

Relaxing in Hoi An was lovely. After three days of wishy-washy resistance, my desire to save money was (surprise!) overcome by my desire for a custom-made coat. The coat, along with some other junk, is now making its way across the globe and should arrive in Toronto (hi Dad!) anywhere between 3-6 months from now.

On my last day in Hoi An, I took a cooking class in which I was the only member, and was observed the entire time by every member of the restaurant staff, who apparently had nothing better to do. Very intimidating when you have to flip a crispy shrimp pancake without the aid of a spatula.

places in Hoi An really just look like this ALL. THE. TIME. it's ridiculous.

the last photo like this, I swear, but WHAT GIVES, Universe? how am I supposed to resist?

Anyway, in Saigon for the day and then off to the Mekong Delta, then into Cambodia.

Hope you’re all well, and please keep the emails (or blog-response poetry) coming!

From Saigon with love,



7 thoughts on “Hanoi, Tam Coc, and a not-so-brief digression concerning Alanna’s aesthetic tastes

  1. Dan says:

    I love the pictures – the Turquoises at Tu Doc are amazing. Merry Belated Christmas!

  2. Dadaa says:

    When every pic a thousand ‘ tells,
    Of horns and ruin and strange, new smells,
    Of merchandise that runs a street,
    No need to keep it “short and sweet”!

  3. Dadaa says:

    Either oar situation?
    Both your feet and hands will do.
    If focussed on your target, 
    You can get to Timbuktu. 

    Ok, I’ll stop now…

  4. Jordan says:

    1) The parental poetry is OUTSTANDING, please keep it coming!

    2) I wish it was possible to ‘like’ phrases from this post like facebook statuses


    4) I had to try my hand, sorry:
    There once was a girl from Toronto,
    Who walked laden down like some Tonto.
    Gazed up all the while,
    Got squished flat by tile,
    Death by beauty was what she would want, though.

  5. Elsa says:

    We loved Hanoi and Hoi An also — did not have enough time. I had a pair of pants made (of course) but did not do any cooking course! We are presently in South Africa — in the Cape Area — with the family, having a great time. We will have lots to talk about whenever you are back in Canada……..!!!!

    Elsa and Percy

  6. Sam says:

    I can’t help but notice that in most of the pictures you took of me here, I seem to be just fiddling around with my camera. I would like to state for the record that this is not completely true. I looked up a few times, at least.

  7. Lorna Day says:

    As your dad has noted, above
    this post displays a lot of love.
    You seemed to see a lot of Vietnam
    And also took good care of ailing Sam.


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