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Street Photography and Street-Side Dining in Hanoi

It's been 2 months since my Vietnam trip, and I think I intentionally kept off posting all the posts immediately. When you post after a while, you're kind of forcing yourself to reminisce.

Hanoi - atleast the old quarters - is unintentionally built for walking. You could walk the whole day, continuously coming across new lanes, eateries and stores. Pedestrians are aplenty, but scooters and cyclists rule. We saw very few cars, I am certain that it would in fact be hard to navigate the small streets in a car.

There was a particular sight we saw repeated often. Outside eateries, on the street, you could almost always find groups of people, friends, families, young, old - they would be sitting together, chatting, laughing, eating. I don't know if this is something the French left behind, they do seem to have a strong 'eat by the street' culture.
I found this community-style eating very beautiful. 

Loved the community-style eating and chatting we saw frequently.

There was always a table-chair setup outside shops, welcoming locals and tourists to try their food. This street side dining is truly an experience.

We thoroughly enjoyed all the street food, the street-side seating overlooking the bustling city life. I relished the vegetable fried rice - it was cooked a particular manner, just a tad crispy, a tad spicy and with all the amazing flavours. The Vietnam special coffee was great too!

The Books I read in 2022

I used to read a lot as kid - Secret Seven, Harry Potter, Sweet Valley, Famous Five, Nancy Drew. But somewhere between school and hitting 30, I realized I had read all of probably 10 books. Last March, I finally decided to do something about it as it bothered me.

I joined the Dubai bookclub - and tried to be consistent and managed to read 25 books - being inspired by fellow readers.

Apart from the books that I read for the book club, I read science-fiction (Project Hailmary was one of my favourites), multi-geography authors (Iran, Nigeria, Angola, Former Yugoslavia, Japan, Chile and Palestine). Reading about stories from different parts of the world made me realize that there are is so much I don't know.

This year, I'm going to try and read 35 books - and I'm excited about it!

Little Things in Vietnam (Hanoi and Hoi An)

Vietnam is a haven for shopoholics - even for those on a budget. While of course the bigger cities have the Pradas and Chanels, it was the smaller stores that fascinated me. Small art galleries, book shops, souvenir stores, handcrafted leather shops, ceramic stores. All just quietly sitting there - waiting for you to enter and be marvelled. 

If you have watched Korean dramas, you must be familiar with Soju. I liked that they specifically mentioned that the above Soju was imported fom Korea.

Ceramics is big in Hanoi. This store we walked in to had so many cute little things.

I almost picked this up, before realizing my cat would gracefully knock it on the floor.

A tiny ceramic cat.

While walking the inner lanes in the old quarters, I came across this book store. They had some really nice books - a collection that seemed hand picked by someone who loves books.

Some fine books.

2 cute little things - found them inside a temple.

I was not surprised to see such beautiful handcrafted shoes - a lot of global brands outsource their production to Vietnam and this is just an outcome of that.

We saw the seasons transition very explicitly, one day it was hot and sunny, the next, it was rainy with a cool winter breeze. This cute little dog was wrapped in a t-shirt overnight - it wasn't a pet, but someone obviously had done this for several street dogs which was nice to see.

This is an irony - a huge plate in a post titled 'little things'. I loved the jelly fish painted onto it - another ceramic store.

In the spirit of Christmas, a minimalistic cristmas tree at the shop front. This store had so many cute little things.

I would go back to Vietnam solely for a shopping trip, amongst other things.

Some of the stores we shopped from; do keep in mind that their websites are not well designed nor updated properly.

T&N leather in Hoi An

Kana Boutique

Authentic Battrang

The Craft House

Bookstore - close to the Fifi Arts and Crafts Cafe

There are a lot of low profile art galleries - we bought some original art work from a contemporary Vietnamese artist - Song Thu Art Gallary.

Teach Your Kids - A Refreshing Poem

My high school principal recently posted this on Facebook and it resonated so well with me. It's a poem written by Michael Guzder. I am a huge believer of getting your hands dirty with mud while you garden, observing little baby birds in their nest before their first flight, walking barefoot on the beach - where the waves have just left their impression, grass, sand dunes, snow, wet earth after a rain - wherever you can connect with mother earth. I am a proponent of learning a new language, a new instrument, a new dance perhaps? 

Every now and then, we come across a passage, a sound of music, a person, a story that makes us rethink how we live and laugh. This was one such for me, and that's why I thought of sharing it on the blog. While it reads 'Teach your Kids' - I think it applies to everyone.

Teach your kids - 

Pagodas (Chua) and the Spiritual Spaces in Vietnam

I love places of worship. More than the spiritual angle, I love the peace and quiet they offer. In Hanoi, unless you go looking for the famous pagodas like a tourist would, you will find them discreetly located between two regular buildings, quiet as a mouse. In some of the pagodas, you can hear chanting at certain times of the day, but otherwise, you would walk right by them and not give it a second glance. Don't get me wrong, they're absolutely beautiful, but as I said, they're very discreet.

In the few Chinese historic dramas that I've watched, the places of worship - with intricately carved dragons is always a sight to behold. So finding them here in Hanoi was a good surprise. But it was to be expected, being neighbouring countries and all.

I can still recall the wind rustling in those trees and the sudden silence, both. The courtyard is lush with bonsai, well manicured plants and ofcourse, my favorite, huge trees, their foliage covering the entire courtyard. Forever in love with these wide courtyards lined with trees older than me. This one is probably my favourite photo.

The Flower Scene in Hanoi

As we took in this amazing city, all of it - the old and not so old, we realized that the folks here were above average gardeners. I still don't know the trick to make my plants flower. But they had it going for them, bougainvillea, roses, blue bells and yellow bells, and more. Houses that lined main roads and also the inner lanes, were all dotted with colours. I do acknowledge that the tropical climate had something to do with this, but even so, I got to give credit where it's due.

The balconies of these slighly older homes were truly beautiful. And the inner lanes held the same promise, hidden gems, small homes with bigger balconies - lush green. Life in Hanoi, probably like in most of Vietnam, was slower, more tranquil and different. Walking around in the Hàng Trống neighbourhood was a nice experience, with all the sights and sounds of the older quarters of Hanoi.

Slow Island Life in Hội An, Central Vietnam

On my drive back from Hội An to Da Nang Airport, I was wondering what I would take away with me. Hoi An is a small island town close to the 3rd largest city in Vietnam - Da Nang. The more interior you move in Hội An, the more real the living gets. People live a hard life, but slow. Compared with my fast paced life (it's been fast paced for more than a decade now with bits and bobs of slow sprinkles), the life in Hội An was very appealing and made me think, what is life. I think the best way for me to capture the slow life is through the homes - the slightly older homes which seem to have had no change in decades. I have a habit of walking around in the inner lanes, because away from the eyes of tourists, a mask gets taken off.

While we stayed in Hội An, it rained almost the whole time. This made it appear that life was slower than it actually was. 

The aerial view of an inner section of Hoi An island. Houses here all have sloped tiled roofs, similar to Kerala I would think, in order to manage the harsh monsoons. Cyling here is a very nice experience. Families sitting together, kids playing, the older folks gathered in one house and chatting away, occassionally saying hello to me.

Food to try when in Singapore

Maybe, people do travel to Singapore for a holiday for their minds, souls & stomachs. Before I traveled to the small island city, a lot of friends & colleagues who'd already been there advised me to try everything edible (& in my case, vegetarian) in S'pore. My expectations were high. I was looking forward to some innovative food, designer cafes, local dishes & mind blowing desserts. And I wasn't disappointed. I've just put together some of the food I enjoyed (as a Vegetarian).

Seaweed Snacks : This is an acquired taste, but the more I ate, the more I wanted to eat. These are definitely a specialty of the far east and a must try.