Vietnam: Good morning, Hanoi

That bit of sunlight sneaked out very early in the morning in Hanoi in those summer days. I woke up at 5am to catch the sunrise but somehow I was still the late one. The whole sky was brighten up already and many things around me had started going on. There was one thing I had wanted to witness was the activities in Hanoi in mornings. Having spent many years visiting Hanoi, lived here for awhile, but somehow I hadn’t known that much of this motherland of mine.

The street seemed quieter in that early morning. There was not much traffic on the road but it was still crazy driving a motorbike then nonetheless. I was the only one stopping at the traffic light but then I realised it did not make no sense of stoping anyway. However, seeing Hanoi so empty like that is quite rare. So there I went to Hoan Kiem Lake.


One thing I noticed about early mornings here was many people going out with their bicycles. Along the lake, everyone cycled their way around the lake and elsewhere. Some were probably doing that as their morning exercise. Some people sitting by the post office were wrapping newspapers to deliver on time. Old people were gathering together into different groups – some joined taichi group, some gave massage to the other, some did some stretching… Maybe this image I had seen many times on TV and on media, but it was my first time witnessing it. Actually, this has made Hanoi so colourful and fascinating.


Making a lap around the Hoan Kiem Lake, I was amazed by the variety of activities at that hour. Some looked quite strange to me such as old women rubbing their bellies, or men using trees as their kungfu training tools. Some dance groups were very active – from Aerobics to Latin dance. If you think about it, you wouldn’t find this anywhere else except in Hanoi. The image of old people doing exercises either in the park or around Hoan Kiem Lake has been the typical picture of this capital city and it has got to most people’s memory no matter they are tourists or Hanoians. Funnily, this has made a vivid culture of Hanoi. Either hot or cold, the morning exercise is one thing that people will never skip. Like on that day, even though the temperature was close to 35 degrees, sweat was running on everyone’s face, it wouldn’t be an excuse to stop skip the morning routine.

This habit is one long-time tradition of Hanoi. People who have ever lived in this capital city would miss this image when they are gone. One thing I know that the longer I linger my feet in Hanoi, the more attached I feel for my homeland. That does sound quite strange but for whom live abroad like me, we appreciate this moment which we find something so close to our root but far forgotten because of being abroad.





Vietnam: Hanoi and The People


I used to live in this city, where you can find tons of interesting things that you can never find anywhere else. In which I find the most compelling must be the Hanoian people. There is a great variety here. People say Vietnamese people everyone looks the same. Take a look closer! The exotic Asian look might blind you but you will see they are different in a certain point.

If you have known, Asian loves to have ‘white’ skin. I mean, they prefer to have a lighter skin than a dark brown skin. Vietnamese people do have this favour too. The reason is simply about the way they want other people look at them. Light skin – ‘you work in an office, have a good job’; Brown skin – ‘oh, you must work really hard either on a field or always on a go’. It sounds quite funny but yes, that’s how they think. However, somehow it actually describes part of what they do. If you observe closely on each person pass by, there are women carrying big packages on a bicycle, old men trying to sell lotteries, men in suits, etc. This is what I mean with being different in a certain point. Hanoian (or Vietnamese people in general) work really hard. Everyone has their own businesses. Besides the higher social class with suits on, Hanoian people could be in a really low position. Some lucky ones have a job owning a shop, or driving taxi. Some actually work days and nights but only have the wage even less than a low position officer. Sometimes I wonder how they can handle everything in their lives with such a small amount of money.

Let’s get back to the jobs part. There are various jobs in Hanoi that you can’t imagine that they are even exist. I couldn’t tell them all, but I gotta say, thanks to them we have all the abilities to fulfil our needs while either living or travelling here.

About Hanoian people – I see ‘us’ in different perspectives. As a Hanoian born, allow me to use “we” in the following lines. There is a contrast between Hanoian before and now. What I learned about Hanoian people – as down to earth, kind, warm hearted, caring for each other – were way before the time I was born. I mean, I don’t say we are not like that. We are still warm hearted people and very hospitable. However, there is a certain extent, we have changed. I think, we only see this change through tourism. Tourists find Hanoian people are not as friendly as Saigon people. I have to admit, I see the same thing. I cudgel my brain about how much Hanoian people have changed. Looking around and I realised, the huge amount of people that we normally communicate with in Hanoi is from the rural area. As my perspective, they are less likely educated and they are quite aggressive in getting money. I’m not saying they have made Hanoi change that much but it gotta be one of the reasons, doesn’t it?
‘Do you know corruption is also one of the reasons?’ – T. asked.
After 3o minutes explaining, I got lost in the whole complication of Hanoi’s problems. Saigon is more developed than Hanoi. Its tourism is way ahead of us, thanks to the French reign. Therefore, the people there have a higher ability to earn more money and develop the city in any dimension. Somehow this leads to being more friendly in the South of Vietnam? I can’t tell but it really makes the people there happier and more relaxed in making money. In contrast, people from Northern Vietnam are more hostile in earning a living.

In my heart, I know we are great people. Because of some circumstances, we have to work hard for our livelihoods. And that’s what is all about. We could be someone sitting along the road with some small wooden chairs trying to sell tea or snacks, or carrying yokes around the city… I know that everyone all over the world has their own difficulties in living but I really admire Vietnamese people and how hard they work to afford a tough city life. Even though how fast the city has developed, Hanoian people still keep their own tradition and culture. In the end, everything I have mentioned comes from culture. And they are making the culture and profit us as travellers to see and understand a country better.