It was fun and comforting to go back to Hanoi’s hot and sweaty hug, so we decided to stay there for an extra day. Belle from the hotel greeted us with a smile and upgraded our room again, this time to a room bigger than our whole appartement in Jaffa.
Throughout the whole way back it was raining and the skies were grey. I napped and listen to the Temple of the Dog album, and since then every time I hear All Night Thing I think about raindrops on the window with fields in the background. The rain weakened as we came close to the big city and stopped completely as we entered the old quarter, with the women cooking on the sidewalk and men getting their hair cut on a high chair in front of a mirror in the middle of the street. It’s as if they built a city in the middle of a jungle, and between the thin houses and the busy junctions grow thick trees with climbing plants, and big bugs buzzing between the tree tops.
It was already evening when we went to meet Nadya and Xavier, the couple from Ecuador we met at the cruise. We sat at a small place where a teenage waiter worked and his girlfriend sat on the side. We had fried meat and curly chips and drank a lot of beer, which came with ice. In Vietnam they drink beer with big chunks of ice, especially in hot places. It was a bit weird at first but after you get used to it, it’s hard to drink it without ice.
We moved on from there to a different place, even smaller, where dozens of people sat on short plastic chairs on the sidewalk and had beer for 5,000 Dong a glass – about a Shekel, or 25 Cent. Everybody in Hanoi drink the local beer – Bia Hà Nội, which is poured out of big barrels and sold for cheap. Next to us sat a big group of drunk locals and Europeans who celebrated someone’s birthday and kept joining more and more random people to them, including us.
When we were completely drunk we said goodbye to Nadya and Xavier, perhaps forever.
The next morning we woke up at nine AM with a slight headache and went to a place Belle recommended, where they sell yellow sticky rice with steamed pork. It was pouring rain and we got lost, and eventually arrived at a half empty place where a chubby limping woman served us the strange food. On the way back we saw a place nearby that sold the same thing and had much more people, and thought that maybe we went to the wrong place. Afterwards we split up for a while because Roni had some arrangements to do with his credit card, so I waited for him in a cafe by the Hoan Kiem lake and wrote in my journal. Afterwards we kept strolling in Hoan Kiem, slowly saying goodbye to the streets. I bought a book I saw a few days before, Dumb Luck by Vũ Trọng Phụng, a funny book written at 1936 that takes place at Hanoi.
We had pho-bo soup and iced tea and came back for a little nap in the room since we were both a bit hung over from the day before, and then went to another cafe we used to sit in once in a while. It was run by a bunch of fat lazy men and fat lazy cats were walking around. At about eight PM we went to meet Belle and her friend, Hing, who waited outside with their motorcycles. Hing drove me while Belle drove Roni and they showed us parts of the city we didn’t saw, Hồ Chí Minh square and places with big fancy government buildings, and avenues with statues. We stopped by the big lake at the western part of the city and sat in a cafe’s yellow plastic chairs, with night bugs flying around and the lights of the city reflecting in the black water on the other side of the lake. It was a bit awkward at first. A big woman served us tea and Belle told us about her family in the village, about her studying tourism because she wanted to work in this field and to travel, and that she dreams about visiting Australia. Hing couldn’t speak English but she could listen, and spoke through Belle. They said that when women are about 23 it gets weird if they don’t get married, but they are 25 and singles and feel alright about it. Belle said that there are seven hospitals at Hanoi, all of them in one area and each one attends a different domain, but medical treatments are very expensive and some people can’t afford it. They brought us back to the hotel, through the busy roads, and I noticed that even though it’s crowded and full of motorcycles, nobody touches or gets close to you and there are no accidents.
It’s been almost two years since, during which Belle got married to an Australian guy and they travel often.
We went to drink another last Bia Hà Nội for 5,000 Dong and talked about the couple from Ecuador. I told Roni that I like women like Nadia, that eat and talk a lot, and that I liked that she wears cleavages even though she has a big scar on her chest from a heart surgery she’s been through. I thought about how fast you can get attached to people and places and then leave, as if nothing had happened.