Saturday, 18 February 2012

Red River, Hanoi 16th February 2012

Almost total solitude...

Wondering what I should do today as I tuck into fried egg baguettes and coffee. Take a local bus to some random location or go and take a look at the red river and discover the Hanoi river life. Map is indicating a ferry service within walking distance, and I like local ferries. Somehow they always reveal another facet to city life, wherever that city is.

The ferry, according to this map should be directly opposite the old quarter, but first the highway separating the two areas needs negotiating! Surprisingly easier than I had anticipated as there are gaps in the traffic flow, just long enough to get across in one piece. On into a less inviting neighbourhood then, with no indication of a ferry service that I can see. Dark narrow alleyways formed out of densely packed Concrete blocks, in various stages of decay. Through more alleyways towards the Red river, perhaps I might stumble across the ferry then or at least spot it along the banks at some stage.

A concrete slipway down towards a platform as such, a floating structure as once was, but the river is actually quite a distance away from here. Wet mud and dry sand between the slipway and the waters edge, with a few ramshackle old boats dotted here and there. Some with washing lines tied the length, others look like fishing vessels. Walking out onto the sand bank towards the river,  and a feeling of complete solitude takes over. A strong breeze develops blowing sand around, the nearest person is about 1/2 a mile away, the nearest car, bus or motorbike, about 3 miles into the distance. No horns, fumes, Chinese cackling, just the occasional squeal as a few kids jump off one of the boats to play at the waters edge. Cloud has lifted a bit allowing a skyline view of the City. Three bridges span the river, one or two skyscrapers on the horizon, but it's nothing particularly memorable or inspiring.

The distant drone of an airplane engine, oscillates between loud and soft. Sounds as though something is getting ready to go. There is an airbase close by, just across the river. It's an airforce facility according to an earlier google, since I had spotted this on the map sometime ago.To be honest, part of coming here was that I might get a rare glimpse of a Vietnamese airforce plane, even a photo. I did, and got the photo too!

No ferry, although there is evidence where one might have been. The concrete slipway, large parking areas either side and a landing spot directly opposite, in the process of being excavated.

Alleyway, street, alleyways then the highway. Turning right along the street and eventually I should arrive adjacent the part of the old quarter I am staying in. Despite the intimidating surroundings this is turning into quite a pleasant walk. I'm getting an insight into real local Vietnamese life, away from the tourists driven, or tourist inspired communities of the old quarter. Actually, I haven't seen a tourist for hours and no tourists clutching their Lonely Planet guide books around here either. I don't have a Lonely Planet guide book by the way, I like to discover things on my own. People are smiling, happy to see a tourist I suspect, but generally I get a feeling of community spirit here. I get a banana pancake from a street vendor for 5,000 vnd, about 16p, its 10,000 across the highway. All the facilities to service a local community at local prices. It's not busy, certainly not the same bustle as across the road, but relaxed, more informal. Bird cages line the street with chirping birds. Don't know if these are for sale or just pets, or dinner! I've seen dog meat on a menu and a few other dubious ingredients.

A message to Lonely Planet.. nothing to really see here, rundown, grotty river etc... No need to put this street in your guide book. The best day in Hanoi so far!

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