Hanoi during nighttime is a lot quieter than Manila. Yes, the streets may be packed with food stalls that sprawl from left to right but there is still this undeniable sereneness in the air.
We found stores just beside the busy road with food that you need to cook by yourself. We were curious as to why people flock and decided to give it a try. It looks so thrilling because above you is a working train railway and on your side is where the motorcycles pass by.
The store has these long blue plastic tables with makeshift cooking stations. It stands along a busy road. We sit by the roadside — wanting to feel that adrenaline rush of eating and getting hit by a car. Kidding aside, this is all new to us, so why not make the most out of it?
We first drenched the pan with butter, til it’s warm. Then one by one, we place all the food we want to cook. What I treasure most about this are the talks in between. All those topics that have come out of nowhere are the most genuine, if you’ll ask me.
Most of the center aisles are filled with clothing stores that sell inexpensive stuff. And on the gutters are where the food shops dwell — selling various kinds of food.
My eyes easily go to the fried ice cream — thin strips of pastel colors rolled delicately into the cups. I bought one and man, it did not disappoint. The cold air together with this frozen treat is the best combination. I get to walk along the sidewalk without perspiring, at all.
Then, my friend wanted to buy a banh mi sandwich. So, we searched for one and ended up in front of a small pop-up store. Before leaving the store, we met a local Viet guy which later on became a very good friend of mine!
As I uncover the low-lit alleys where people flock, I slowly understand why Hanoi has become a popular destination for travelers — its laid-back vibe, its cold weather that is perfect for people who have made pho their religion and the kind-hearted locals you get to meet along your journey.
We walked back to Hoan Kiem Lake to rest our weary feet. There are still a few people in the park though it’s a little late. I am expecting the number of people to be thin by now.
How the light touches every element in the lake is beyond magical. Some are exposed and some are hidden like a very deep secret.
This is a very unusual way to end our Hanoi trip. Everything is calm. I do not feel like there’s a need to rush in getting things done. Even checking places off our bucket lists. It’s the Hanoi effect. How every single thing is slowed down like it is dancing to its own rhythm — at its own pace.
I actually would not mind to stay a little longer but new adventures await me in a different province.
The next morning, we catch the earliest flight to our next destination, Da Nang. I whispered a prayer under my breath that all will be fine and everything will be according to plan. But sometimes, there is nothing you can do but to trust a heavenly being to conspire with the universe to craft your fate.