A long and rambling post.
I'm writing this from Dili, which you already know because if you're reading this you are my friend and you've seen one of my three dozen facebook posts about moving to Dili. So, anyway, it's warm, I'm very busy with work and I don't live in Hanoi anymore. I lived in Hanoi for one year (past simple, used for an event in the past which has finished).
When I lived in Hanoi, I lived on a small island called Lang Yen Phu on the great big lake called 'West Lake' or 'Tay Ho' in the local parlance. Some people argued with my designation of Lang Yen Phu as an island and put forward that it was, indeed, a peninsula. As much as I love peninsulas (one in particular, Otago peninsula you absolute babe), I remain convinced that Lang Yen Phu was (and is) an island. It looks like an island, it acts like an island and it feels like an island. It feels completely different to the surrounding area.
Above: some street scenes on Lang Yen Phu, including the division between two cafes (yellow chairs versus green chairs).
Below: one of the local motorbike drivers saw me taking photos and grabbed my arm, taking me to this parked new Lexus and posing with it. I don't think the car belongs to him, but he was very pleased with the photograph.
Of course, the hardest thing about leaving and also the hardest thing about setting up camp in a new place, is losing the incredible connections you find with people. I said to a colleague, and it wasn't a lie, that I have never before worked somewhere where so many of my colleagues are my kind of people. Where I would happily go to a work party. Where lunch breaks are glorious and your coworkers tell you tales of colonial piracy and adventures in rural China over your iced tea.
On my last night in Hanoi I met my dear friend Charles in the Old Quarter and promptly dropped my tele lens in an empty bar - the sound of the crack was startling to all. In Vietnam, if you lose or break things in August it is good luck and means you have warded off any bad ghosts who had you in their sights, so I tried to take this happening with good humour. In any case, I took the lens into a shop in Bangkok and got it fixed for ... $4. So.
Below, photos taken with my broken lens.
On my final morning before heading to the airport I took a quiet walk around the island with my cup of coffee and my camera. It must have been about 5 a.m. so the light is just starting, and it's raining. I didn't mean for my final pictures of Hanoi to be so brooding and melancholic, but that's the way it was. And it's pretty accurate in the end.