I’m shocked. I’m within a page or two of the end of this journal. Soon there will be a time when I open a fresh page in a fresh book. But not just yet.
I am finally in Hanoi, after five hours of flying, eight hours of waiting through the night and the small hours of the morning, and another three hours of flying. After that there was getting through immigration, purchasing a SIM, making a mess of getting a Grab, the subsequent twenty-odd minute drive to the alley which my apartment is supposed to be on, and wandering around for a bit trying to get a grasp of where things are and where I am in relation to them.
However, I am finally here!
But I can’t get into the apartment. But that is fine! The apartment is down an alley whose wall literally abuts one of the best sandwich shops in Hanoi (according to reviews); which happens to be where I sit writing this.
It’s a relief to be sitting down (and not on a plane or in an airport) luxe, calme, et volupté with a beautiful mug filled with coffee, and a beautiful pastry filled with chocolate, more or less carefree, thrilled to no longer be in transit because when one is in transit, most particularly to a foreign country where one doesn’t speak the language, one is apt to worry and fret needlessly over silly things, but even if one is not worrying there is still a certain level of stress involved in wandering for hours around an airport and sitting for hours in a small seat in a plane in such an unnatural spot as 30,000 feet above the earth. It is in a sense similar to the state of being always, always, always on the move, like traveling by bicycle, or walking—whatever mode one may choose to convey oneself by. I wrote previously about the stresses of being constantly on the move, without a center, without a central node to call home that one may sally forth from on forays and adventures. There is a similarity here I think. The difference being (and these differences are so starkly opposite as to be identical) that in one instance one is confined to a single space thus having very little freedom of movement, and in the other instance one has such freedom of movement that there is too much of it and thus it becomes constant. But everything is beautiful now, and soft and smooth as velvet.
The cafe is a real charmer. Clay tile floors that extend into a small courtyard through the rear glass doors where are setup some simple wood and steel tables and chairs. Along the perimeter walls are planted some wiry shrubs that glow with a vibrant green light that shows brightly against the white-washed walls. Inside the cafe are several sofas, a few chairs and some tables that wouldn’t look out of place in old photographs of China (or, obviously, Vietnam). The main room is white and spacious enough with the ceiling twenty or so feet high, and a staircase in an adjacent room, beautiful, simple, yet somehow ornate, which winds up to a mysterious second level. Through the front entrance just off the street lies a gated courtyard where people may gather or just park their scooters. Right now I’m the only person here, but I suppose it must get busy at some points. Most of the customers I’ve seen coming and going have been westerners. Not too surprising though, as this is a part of the city that is popular for expats to live.