I feel like writing, which is an odd feeling because for the longest time even contemplation of sitting before this keyboard brought on feelings of nausea. Perhaps it is the hint of autumn in the Ha Noi air that has invigorated my senses dulled too long by the torpid humidity of a Sai Gon wet season, or could it be the anticipation of heading off tomorrow on a long bike trip in the northern mountains and the delicious uncertainty of not knowing where I will lay my weary head each night for the next 2-3 weeks. Whatever the cause, I am concentrating on enjoying the feeling.
I’m enjoying riding around Ha Noi visiting favourite haunts that I haven’t seen for 2 years, the narrow streets and the enormous trees shading them, and the crispness that is just making itself felt in the air every afternoon as the sun goes down. Ha Noi is so different from Sai Gon and it’s the change that I enjoy the most, just as I will enjoy getting back to things down south.
Here I love watching Ha Noi men determinedly drinking beer at 9am at tiny pavement bia hoi’s, their conversations intermingled with the gurgling sound of the communal bamboo water pipe as they suck in a hit of strong bush tobacco smoke and exhale it through their nostrils.
In Ha Noi it is possible to come across tiny unexpected pockets that make you feel as though you are in the countryside and not in the centre of a bustling city. In Ba Dinh, where I am staying, I came across a small, heavily polluted stream running through the centre of a graveyard surrounded by trees. I am told that until 10 years ago this area was used for growing flowers and herbs. The graves were mostly old and people live in house directly abutting them. I followed an elderly man into the central grave area and noticed that he turned left off the main path and walked among the gravestones. The look on his face led me to believe that he was there to pay his respects to a dear departed, but then i saw him unzip his fly and begin to take a piss. A wry smile crossed my thoughts as I wondered if he was indeed paying his respects.
A lot more thoughts and feeling are racing from my head to my fingertips, but I feel the need to stop writing and go enjoy the moment. So away I go.