So after my last post, shit got real with the hurricane. At about 5pm local time on Monday, the winds picked up as the hurricane made landfall. Shortly after, the winds picked up something chronic, and up on the 26th floor of my sisters apartment – you could really feel the force of it all.
We were all going fine. Cheerfully having a joke about everything over some drinks, and then I noticed the windows at the opposite building had blown out. And then the power went out. And my sister and her husband lost their minds.
With my typhoon training from Hanoi however, I stayed calm. After administering a few well-timed facial slaps to both of them, they regained a semblance of composure, and we relocated to a blanket and pillow fort in the hallway, away from all the windows. There we dined on corn chips and salsa, before passing out.
We spent the next two days, entertaining ourselves as best as we could. Finally, we had to give in when they cut the gas, and we ran out of running water. We moved to a friends place over in Queens, from which I type this post.
Hopefully normality will return by the weekend, and I can post some more cliche-esque NYC photos, beyond those of the carnage below.
The storm surge measured 12foot. T-W-E-L-V-E. Thank god I was 26floors up when it hit.
Night two. Trapped. Contemplating eating the dog before moving onto full-blown cannibalism.
p.s. thanks to all my mates who enquired about my safety. such as dear Inah here.
With her heartfelt email.
80km north west of Hanoi lies Tam Dao National Park. In said park you will find Tam Dao town on the top of an amazingly scenic mountain. At the base of the mountain you will find a bear sanctuary. A bear sanctuary that is under serious threat, but more about that soon.
So. Tam Dao National Park is large.
There is also only one route into the park really. Especially if you are looking to get to the town. In light of this information, I do advise that when google map planning your trip, you don’t just type ‘Tam Dao National Park’ as your destination. Doing so will send you to the eastern border of the park. i.e. the wrong side. End result if you’re not careful is that what was meant to be a pleasant two-hour ride, turns into a six-and-a-half hour mission involving riding through small rivers, horrible gravel paths, dodging gangs of water buffaloes, and having to scale a completely unlit, winding, 12km mountain climb, in pitch darkness, running out of fuel, fearing for your life.
If you can avoid that mapping issue, I do recommend a visit. Also, if you get a chance, do visit the bear sanctuary there, but be quick. Due to some horribly corrupt behaviour from Vietnamese government officials, the bear sanctuary is in serious danger of being closed down and replaced with a resort or something. Oh, and if you were unfamiliar, the bear sanctuary is home to around 104 bears who were saved from ‘legal’ bear farms throughout Vietnam. From what I gather, these farms constituted caging the bears, and running a tube directly from their gall-bladder to collect bile for ‘traditional’ Vietnamese medicines.
I went back to the Mekong again recently. Took a few friends down with me after I’d been raving about it for the last half year to them. Changed it up a little this time by taking a quick overnight trip to My Tho (80km out of HCMC) and also trying to visit the small canals of Ben Tre, the smaller town just across the river where I do believe my mothers family originated from.
The goal was to hire a local of some sort to row us down those small canals where we’d be enveloped by tropical canopies etc. Unfortunately, the area seemingly caters solely for tour groups who visit candy factories, flower farms, crocodile centers and whatnot, so it wasn’t easy to find someone to just row us around aimlessly. Eventually I found one lady who would do it, but it the end, she would only take us for about 15minutes, so that was pretty anticlimatic.
I’ll try and drag mother back next time for some insider tips I think.
Anyways, the rest of the time down there was spent eating seafood, catching up with old friends, avoiding my aunts new pet otter (seriously) and taking photos of children in their bathers.
This morning, I tagged along with my housemate and her buddies at some obscene morning hour to get a dish that we first heard about here. It’s a combination of two very popular northern dishes. Bun Rieu – a traditional noodle dish built upon a great crab and tomato based broth. Anddd Bun Cha – grilled, tasty pork, served with noodles, fresh greens and herbs, and of course, nuoc mam (diluted dipping fish sauce).
Fittingly, the dish is called Bun Rieu Cha. And based on the previously mentioned link, it’s a very rare dish. Sold not far from the tourist centre of Hanoi, behind some market stalls in an alley (12 Phùng Hưng) for 30k ($1.50) a serve. Only sold for breakfast, and usually sells out quite quickly according to the stall owner. Just Bun Rieu with tasty-ass grilled pork basically. Definitely worth a visit if you can find the woman.
After breakfast, we swung by the aptly named – B52 lake. Something you kind of take for granted living in Hanoi. It’s actually just near a good friends house, and I always rode past it in the small back alleys on the way home. Difference was, this time, I had my camera. Basically, it’s a small pond, where the remains of an American B52 remain after the North Vietnamese shot it out of the sky back in the war. Pretty impressive really. These days, it’s just in the middle of a normal Hanoi suburban area. Hell, this morning a bustling food market was taking place around it.
Just another morning in charming-ass Hanoi I guess.
This city is really growing on me.
Disclaimer: if you know this guy, or if you are this guy, and I’ve offended you in my example. I apologize.
So what you’ll see quite often throughout Hanoi is a bunch of locals, male or female, standing around, playing hacky with a little shuttlecock between themselves to burn time (Wikipedia informs me it’s referred to as đá cầu here).
In the more touristy areas of Hanoi, a common sight you’ll see is a tourist, or at least non-local, of some description who has decided they want to join in. So they get into the circle, and try and have a go. Ten out of ten times. They are shit. And nobody will tell them. So they obliviously play on, looking to have a good ‘real’ experience here. When all they are doing, is being a weak link and completely ruining the game whilst they have this fat grin on their face. I find it annoying.
Hence why we have this photo. This bloke wasn’t playing hacky though, he was playing soccer. And I actually think he wasn’t too bad. But the photo of him fit my little rant well. So here he is. Oh, and he was quite noticeably in a lot worse shape than anyone I saw that afternoon, so it was humorous. So yeah, story and photo aren’t really related at all. Great writing Noogs.
Moving on, the photo was taken in Reunification Park, just south of Hoan Kiem lake, and without a doubt, my favourite place to spend an afternoon in Hanoi. Great local people watching. All manner of shit goes on there. Vietnamese aerobics (absolute must see) with carted in public announcement speakers. Outdoor impromptu weight lifting. Badmington. Outdoor ballroom dancing. A mini rollercoaster. Fishing. Swanboats. Amateur photo shoots. Fresh coconut vendors. Jianzi. Lemon ice tea. Jogging. Blading. Skating. Cycling. Mums in totally questionale outfits walking with their children. Electric toycars. Intense chinese chess matches. Kite flying. Basically, if you are visiting Hanoi and want something awesome to do. Find this park. It definitely beats almost anything else anyone will recommended in Hanoi.
It also makes for great photo taking. Something I am trying to improve on here. So without further ado – here are some random shots I took that afternoon.
p.s. whilst I type this, I have the latest Transformers film playing in the background. Holy shit. Bad movie? Wiki tells me it raked in over a billion at the box office globally though. Dear lord. This Vics Secret model who is the lead actress is painfully bad.
Here are my top 5 tips:
Yes. I wore crocs the entire weekend. Sexy. I know.