In Hanoi the sip lid hole is an inconvenience.
Every single coffee shop offering takeaway has a roll of tape at the counter. Your coffee is prepared, lidded and the hole, or holes, are taped to stop spillage. The cup is bagged and the bag hooked onto your motorbike as you continue your journey to work or home.
People don’t walk in Hanoi. Nobody strolls sipping from a takeaway latte.
This is what all those tourist traffic tales and tips for crossing roads don’t get. Yes there are ways to cross the road, but most of us will go months between crossings. Hanoians don’t cross roads. When you literally park your bike in your kitchen, then on the pavement outside work, a cafe, shop or bar, why would you?
Even if you’d like to walk you can’t. The pavements are full of bikes.
The coffee is for the destination. Not the journey.
I got the above movie sent in a link by the good people of ENV - it’s well worth a watch and is going to be appearing on Vietnamese screens from now until the end of the year.
Twice now I have reported restaurants selling illegal wildlife to the ENV hotline and twice they’ve responded, stopped the sale and continued to monitor the offender. Then they’ve bothered to ensure that I’ve been made aware of their progress. Very thorough and impressive. Please share the film.
On one side you have the plight of the bears and the park employees but the issue goes much further. We often talk about the need for transparency versus corruption, but this is as transparent a piece of corruption as you are ever likely to find.
By all accounts embassies, NGOs and international organisations are queuing to lobby the Government on this issue and to add their signatures and voices in opposition. They see it as pivotal. If this kind of thing can be allowed to happen then just how serious is Vietnam about developing? This is going to get a lot bigger and a lot noisier. It’s hard to imagine the bear park winning and yet it’s also difficult to imagine that such a travesty could be allowed to happen. Please share the film.
Who knows something good could yet come out of all of this. Better even than Animals Asia and its bear park being allowed to carry on with their excellent work – and that alone would be pretty spectacular.
Having trekked across town on a warm day we arrived at our planned destination, a newly opened cafe. Nodding our approval to each other at the set up and decor, we sat down and opened menus.
A quick chat with the apologetic staff and they told us they’d had other complaints but the owner wanted to make it available, “just in case people wanted it” and it started to fit into place.
Fitting out this new restaurant didn’t come cheap. Behind the bar were bottles and bottles of expensive imported whisky. I can imagine the pangolin eaters, the clientele they had in mind.
They’re the ones with the big SUVs that force your scooter into puddles when it’s raining. They’re the ones that drive right behind you peeping for you to give way when their big cumbersome vehicles can’t possibly negotiate the traffic faster than you can.
They’re the ones who are drunk and loud in otherwise nice restaurants – in big groups chain smoking and shouting at the next table.
They’re the ones who’ll make or break this place. Pangolin on the menu would make it a no go for anyone else but then so would the patronage of these people. Loud, drunk, obnoxious and inconsiderate. They are the embodiment of selfishness in every thing they do.
They are the bogeymen. The people behind most of what is wrong with Vietnam.
But a couple have only previously appeared in print. This is one of them…
Judging from newsreel footage, back when “all this was bicycles”, Hanoi wasn’t just quiet it was pretty slow moving too.
Not at all surprising when you figure that heat occasionally nudges 40 degrees in the summer. Vietnam doesn’t seem like it was meant to be fast.
But scooters replaced pushbikes and now cars replace scooters. Air con means people can work faster, harder and longer.
Those cars are now blocking streets. To deal with this we’ll soon get more car parks, wider streets and fly overs. Alongside these will be trams and increased public transport. Hanoi is expanding – it needs more housing, more shops.
Hanoi is to become a city made of cities.
My Vietnamese parents in law used to live in the countryside. They now live in the city. They didn’t have to move to achieve this.
Still, for the those with a nostalgia for “their countryside” there are wildlife restaurants. While the kids increasingly pay lip service to green causes, many affluent oldies are still paying top dollar for civet and pangolin. In 2010 Vietnam’s last Javan rhino was shot. No one really believes Vietnam’s tigers and elephants can survive.
Since the end of the American war Vietnam’s population has doubled.
Over the past decade, Vietnam’s carbon dioxide emissions have grown by 136%. That’s faster than any other country on the planet. Over the same period Vietnam’s oil use grew by 82% – beaten only by increases from China and Qatar.
But that’s nothing compared to Vietnam’s electricity use – up a massive 227%.
Meanwhile having hauled themselves out of poverty through sheer hard work, Vietnamese ambition doesn’t show any signs of slowing. Those who had it hard don’t want their kids to suffer like they did. If that means youngsters studying seven days a week then so be it.
Kids won’t go hungry but they will face different kinds of pressures. Simply making it to University isn’t enough. It has to be a foreign University. In the right country.
Meanwhile stats show that by the time kids hit their teens their largest outgoing is paying off debt.
That is something they have to get used to. With Hanoi’s housing bubble not yet burst, real estate loans went up by almost a quarter between 2009 and 2010.
Borrow more. Buy more land. Or dollars. Or even gold.
And if you’ve spent all that money on land, you’re going to want to make the best of it. No point having a three storey house when you could have five. Knock it down, borrow more money and build it up again bigger than ever. Five stories this time. Have your builders work through the weekend to get it done as soon as possible. Make them start early and finish late.
If you find yourself richer in 10 years time, do this again.
Little wonder then that Vietnam has a dust issues – up to 20 or 30 times the recommended limit near building sites. A mere half that on busy city crossroads.
Back to the family – mum and dad both have to go out to work now in order to meet increasing financial commitments. Grandparents are needed to take kids to school.
The golden generation that won wars and survived food shortages are now needed to babysit and do school runs. Mums and dads get back late. Stuck at work then stuck in traffic.
It’s a ride, exhilarating but exhausting, and let’s not forget that these are the good times.
But surely it can’t go on like this.
You can download the most recent version of The Word here.