Golf in Viet Nam: Hanoi street scene
I’m sitting on a bench by the big lake in downtown Hanoi, near where the old quarter starts, taking occasional, slow pulls from a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. The lake is green, but that’s probably because of all the trees around its edges; most lakes and streams I’ve seen in Viet Nam are brown, the color of clay.
A steady stream of traffic speeds by behind, somehow miraculously avoiding a 1,000-scooter pileup. The noise starts to sound like the constant chirping of crickets or something after a while; you don’t even notice it. In front of me is a young couple sitting at the edge of the water, intertwined like eels.
On the bench to the right, two elderly Vietnamese women stop and sit. They take their hats off, look and me and laugh and say “hello” in unison. On the bench to my left are two male teenagers, making glances at me that I interpret as furtive. The little one would probably serve as the distraction. The big, tall one might require some work.
A Canadian or American couple walk by on the wide, clean sidewalk, carting a blond, curly-haired baby who sits high above her father in some sort of backpack contraption. The Vietnamese stare openly up at the curly-haired baby, riding so high in the air. They smile and occasionally make the universal sound all women make at cute babies.
A block away is a teeming mass of people, but not too many people to bother me here. After an hour or so, I’ve worked up enough nerve to enter the shopping district. It’s so crowded, it’s like entering solid matter, a single molecule entering a larger organism made up of similar molecules.
On my way back, a young Vietnamese woman tries to sell me some t-shirts and I make the mistake of trying to barter with her. I’ve always hated bartering. She ducks inside somewhere to get more shirts. I think I’ve shaken her, but when I get back to the café that marks a sort of border, and push the elevator button, she comes running up breathlessly” “Sir! Sir!…”
The security guard chases her away and I escape upstairs and order two strawberry milkshakes. I’m feeling guilty and sweating like a race horse.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Hemingway-esque vignette of Hanoi street life.
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writing. He is truly an avatar.
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