Thursday, 16 May 2013

Unforgettable summer and winter in Hanoi

 I was born in Hanoi - the capital of Vietnam – which has been a paradise from my earliest childhood. Here the weather makes you feel like being in a land of peace and gentleness, where you can feel the lovely touch of four seasons.

Summer, to some extent, is the most glamorous season in Hanoi. You can hear cicadas repeating the same sound for hours. Many people who first come to Hanoi hate this annoying sound. But for people living in Hanoi, they will miss it if summer comes without what they call “the orchestra of Hanoi”.

 More than once during my childhood I had searched high and low for a cicada to keep in my bedroom as a pet. This was one of my unforgettable experiences.

At this time of year you can see the gorgeous flamboyant flowers everywhere. These flowers are a sign of summer - time for students to have a short break and for people to travel to the sea or the mountains to escape the heat of the city. There are many songs written about summer that make reference to cicadas. Famboyant flowers and students on summer vacation remind me of my childhood.

The mix of red flowers, the old streets, French architecture and the lakes make Hanoi a very special place. Ice-cream and sugarcane juice are the delicious, cooling flavours of summer time. You can find them on every streetcorner in Hanoi and try them. They will give an instant chill indeed!

Usually during summer, Hanoians walk around the lakes such as Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake or Truc Bach Lake to avoid the heat. Wandering around the lakes you can see people sitting around, eating and drinking till late at night. Finding a cool breeze is a priority and the lakeside is a good bet. Sometimes though, the traffic police come and most of the street vendors disappear, leaving behind customers with plates or glasses in hand. But everything will be back to square one when the police are gone. It’s quite a funny scene!

Most people have an image of Hanoi in a hot climate country, but I have to say that the weather in winter is damn cold. 12oC in Vietnam sounds like nothing compared with 5oC or even minus 5oC degrees like in some other countries, but it’s really different here in Hanoi. The cold honestly gets in your bones. When winter comes, everything is bleak, more quiet and slow. However, it offers a chance for young people to dress up in a few extra fashionable clothes. I usually wear two shirts, a pair of long pants, a jacket, scarf, gloves and a winter hat, but I bet others are more overdressed! In winter, people seem to be less active and like to stay at home instead of going out. No wonder most streets appear less crowded.

 A special feature of winter in Hanoi is the food and drink. It is a good experience to sit on the pavement, drink a hot cup of coffee and look at what people are doing around you. Simply put, you can feel calm in the fast-paced city. There are many seasonal dishes but Khuc cake is one of the city's specialties you can easily find in the Dong Xuan market area. At the end of Hang Duong Street the vendors sit right on the pavement with a huge pot full of Khuc cake sticky rice; you pay only about VND8,000 for one serving, and that’s your dinner! Cheap and delicious, I suppose. You’d rather try it sometimes and I strongly believe you’ll be very impressed by the taste of this cake.

Personally, I love Hanoi because it is the place where I was born and has spent most of my time living and working since childhood. Hanoi is always in my heart and my heart is in Hanoi.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Vietnam in foreigners’ eyes


Mrs TJ Vargas is a foreigner having lived in Ho Chi Minh City for nearly five years. She shared her observation about Vietnamese’s lifestyle on her blog.

I have lived in Vietnam since 2007 and I want to share my knowledge of Vietnamese in general and Sai Gon people in particular. I can be right or wrong; you can agree or disagree with me, but I still want to share.

1. Iced tee is free in most restaurants. Some restaurants have hot tea, some have both.

2. When Vietnamese drink tea or water (or other beverage), they always leave from 5 percent to 10 percent that drink in their glass. They do not drink it to the dregs.

3. Vietnamese do not take a bath in the morning, they take a bath in the evening.

4. Teenagers here love everything coming from Korea – food, music, hairstyle, costumes. K-pop has a big affect on this country.

5. Vietnamese take a nap after lunch. Therefore, if you drive your car on the streets from 12 pm to 1 pm, you will travel easily and the streets are very quite.

6. “Happy New Year” of ABBA, “Hotel California” of The Eagles and “Papa” of Paul Anka are songs that are often chosen to sing karaoke.

7. Vietnamese wear helmets not because of their safety, they wear helmets in order not to be fined by policemen.

8. Nobody respects pedestrian crossing. We always have to pray when crossing the road or walking on the sidewalk.

9. Every family has at least two motorbikes and they put them on the ground floor. The living room is also a motorbike garage.

10. Mai Linh and Vinasun are taxi brands believed most. In the airport, everybody queue up for Mai Linh and Vinasun taxi.

11. People here will ask you about your age, your nationality and your marriage status in the first meeting.

12. Coffee here is wonderful. Everybody like drinking iced milk coffee.

13. “Nguyễn” (Nguyen) can be both first name and last name. about seven tenths of Vietnamese I met have this name.

14.  Vietnamese are basically  very friendly, genuine and helpful. Besides, they often smile.

15. The Vietnamese language is very difficult. Although you can distinguish the pronunciation, when you speak out, Vietnamese cannot understand what you are saying. An advice for you is to write down what you want to say in a paper. To me, the secret is body language.

Source: Internet

Women’s Day

When I encounter tourists in Hanoi, I often recommend a climb up the Flag Tower, a 200-year-old survivor of fraught history that now serves as a crown for the Vietnam Military History Museum – which is really what I want tourists to see.

The museum is shabby, sobering reminder of the bad old days, a repository of decrepit weaponry used by Vietnam and its enemies over the generations. A centerpiece is the rusting sculptural collage formed from the wreckage of downed aircraft. But during my first visit, two displays from “the American War” proved most riveting. One was an old, grainy news photo of a hulking, captured American pilot being held prisoner by a diminutive Vietnamese woman. Another was the bust depicting the sad, deeply lined face of a “Heroic Vietnamese Mother,” one of more than 44,000 women who had been accorded that recognition and a modest pension after losing children and husbands in the war.

To some, the Vietnamese Women’s Day, observed on October 20, is little more than “a Hallmark holiday” – a marketing gimmick to sell greeting cards, flowers, sweets and maybe a night on the town. But I find myself thinking it is more than that – perhaps, to use an American frame of reference, a blend of Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.

All in all, Vietnamese women have it tough. My Saigon-born, American-raised wife would tell you that in Vietnam’s patriarchal culture – in Vietnam or overseas – the stereotypical wife may suffer not only from a husband with a wandering eye and a thirst for bia hoi, but also a domineering mother-in-law who feels her boy can do no wrong. This is, I suspect, one reason that many Vietnamese women find foreign boyfriends.
My impression of Vietnamese womanhood is also shaped by what I see day after day on the streets of Hanoi in how so many women labor in ways that have existed for hundreds of years.

Most women, of course, are now riding their scooters in styles appropriate for office jobs. But much as rural women still labor under their conical hats in rice paddies, thousands of their sisters in Hanoi wear their conical hats while carrying their meager livelihood in two baskets that dangle from the yoke-like bamboo ganh over a shoulder. There are women who trundle carts or walk bicycles holding baskets that serve as portable florist shops, kitchens or miniscule general stores.

Two books on my nightstand also shape my perspective. “The Girl in the Picture” tells the story of Kim Phuc, who was 10 years old when she ran naked and screaming from the pain of napalm into the view of photojournalist Nick Utt, whose iconic image helped cement opinion against the war. The other is “Last Night I Dreamed of Peace,” based on the diary of Dang Thuy Tram, a young Vietnamese woman who as a physician tended the wounded in medical tents in central Vietnam. She was 25 when she started her diary on April 8, 1965. On June 20, 1970 her diary ended. Tram was killed in action.

The diary was nearly tossed into a fire before the Vietnamese interpreter of an American intelligence officer realized it should be saved. Not until April 2005 did the diary find its way to Hanoi and Tram’s mother, Doan Ngoc Tram. The publication of the diary proved a sensation in Vietnam as readers connected it with the spirit of a young woman whose heroism hid her heartache over a past love.

Sacrifice, it seems, is the recurring theme – one that Vietnamese women share with so many others all over the world. Here’s hoping that the brave Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for daring to demand education for girls makes a full recovery.

And to all the ladies out there, here’s hoping for a happy Women’s Day – here and elsewhere, now and forever.

Source: Tuoitrenews