A great Christmas in England with the boys, family and friends and back to an apparently much colder winter than usual in Hanoi but that hasn't curtailed activities and generally enjoying the city.
01.01.2011 - 31.01.2011 12 °C
Nick and I arrived home early morning of 18th and 4 hours and 4" of snow later, Heathrow closed for days: we were so lucky! We had a great time - Christmas with my family in North Lincolnshire. This is the scene Christmas morning. Meeting up with Nick's family and lots of friends. We didn't see nearly everyone so sorry to those we missed - two weeks wasn't enough and the weather really scuppered some of our plans!
This is our first Hanoi winter and we had heard tales of clothes going mouldy in the wardrobe as it's so damp and cold; actually it has been dryer than usual, I think, but also our house is quite exposed so we get any breeze and sunshine which must help to combact any damp. However, it hasa apparently been most colder than usual. I think the average maximum temperature must have been about 13 whilst the BBC website quote the average maximum as 20. The only heating anywhere are reverse air con units which throw out warm air and consequently you need to be in the air flow to get the benefit! People eat in restaurants with their coats on but street food carries on as usual - sometimes it's warmer outside than in!
The 11th Party Congress was held mid January. 1300 delegates to be transported from hotels mostly around us here in the north of Hanoi down to the convention centre to the south of the city. They were moved through the city 4 times a day and therefore the city was brought to a standstill each time. The Vietnamese love colour and decorations and every event, they really know how to decorate the city. For the Congress, there were banners everywhere and pictures of Uncle Ho. Huge effort goes into these events and it does show. Nick and I went out on the motorbike one weekend and got caught in a traffic jam. Motorbikes as far as the eye could see (as below!) He managed to get the front of the queue and, as I could see over everyone's heads, I told him when the last bus was coming through so he started up the engine, I sat down and everyone followed suit... we were off!
Then once the Congress was over, the banners and floral decorations were taken down....
and replaced with Tet decorations:
I love the posters up everywhere. Very simple, straightforward and patriotic. I've begun a tag called "propaganda" to record the ones I like.
Happy Government, Happy Spring
Other things in January? Nick played golf in Tam Dao and while he played with Cheong, Anna, their children and I visited the Buddhist and Zen centre in the forest and the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre. It was typical, high altitude mist and fine rain and whilst it was a shame not to see the reputed stunning views of Tam Dao, the light and mist gave the area a different atmosphere.
I go cycling most days - go to the market to buy the day's veg or just to get out and about, especially if it's a lovely day. Anyone who has been to Vietnam knows what amazing loads are carried on the back of motorbikes - and bicycles often. Animals and birds in cages, dead and alive, entire hardward shops on a bike or a crockery shop, 3m steel rods, loo paper towers, mirrors, glass, helium balloons, fridge - basically, you name, it will go on a motorbike. I don't think Nick and I will ever cease to be amazed at what is transported by bike nor how the drivers maintain their balance (they don't always and we have seen the odd or two who have fallen over). I'm going to do a separate blog on Tet and lots of transport photos... but here are my January favourites - the egg lady was especially jaw dropping. The photo isn't great but you have to snap what you can....
Even the taxi driver I was with slowed up, pointed at this lady and laughed. She had dozens of plastic bags containing eggs tied to every part of her bike: extraordinary!