“I Don’t Think We Can Say We Didn’t See Anything of Vietnam”

Another Mask Store - Hanoi

The train made a prolonged stop at a station. I toyed with the idea of getting something to eat from a vendor on the platform. I changed my mind. It wasn’t long before another couple with two youngsters raided the cabin and took the bottom bunks. The younger girl played with a fish-shaped balloon. It got a bit irritating as it floated up, invading the top ceiling and nearby space.
The train clicked, rattled on, venting out prolonged bugle-like sounds every so often on its way to Hanoi. There wasn’t much of note to see: a dreary opaque landscape consisting of banana plantations, rice and crop fields, people on motor bikes, and dirt roads. A few sizeable limestone clumps rising up tooth-like appeared. Sad that they are being quarried for raw materials, either sulphur or another kind of powder. Such are the perils of economic development, and that man can only see them for what he thinks they are for – utilization.
The train pulled into Hanoi station around 3:30 p.m. It isn’t that big: run-down, dirty and quite grotty with garbage on the track. I waved away demanding punters who wanted to take me in a taxi or on the back of a motorbike. It was near enough to the alleyway where the Old backpacker’s Hostel is located, so I used my map of the city and legs, and best-footed it forward.
Although not quite, most of the streets were like a ghost town situation: stores shut up, sparse traffic, not even half the usual activity. Well, it was slap bang in the middle of the Tet Festival after all.
Having legged it to the small street, I checked into the Hanoi World Hostel. It is rather shabby and run down. What do you expect for $5 a night, particularly if it’s dorm accommodation.
I booked a bus ticket back to Nanning for the next day. As it was nearing the end of my last full day in Vietnam, I went to capture any Hanoi atmosphere that I could: entered a DVD store that was stacked to bursting and bought a three set copy entitled, ‘Vietnam, The Ten Thousand Day War.’
A gondola woman vendor sold pineapple, 40,000 Dong for two lots. I was getting a vicarious attitude, throwing the money away like confetti. I wouldn’t be in the country to spend any more after tomorrow, so best to get rid of it.
Opposite the hostel, I went into a store to buy a bottle of Tiger beer. The owner said “thank you” in Vietnamese which means “gamba.”

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