A walk down the side streets in Ba Dinh

I’m not so good as CraigMod and his Tokyo walks but what I decided today was to go focus on a part of Hanoi I do not remember exploring on foot before. The area is a maze of small streets, alleys, side streets and little public markets and getting in and out is a matter of following google maps sage advice. Even so I managed to get turned around a few times going.

Ba Dinh district is a wonderful place to just go exploring on a day. So here are some stories and words of my little foray into the district. Let it be said up front, I barely scratched the surface of the going. After some walking I managed to find myself walking down this street where beer is a major thing.I found a little bia hoi place to stop. Only Vietnamese people greet me and the greeting and hellos were in Vietnamese.

This is just some stop along a street with plastic tables, chairs, and nice people. I was told welcome and someone ordered a beer for me. Each beer is fresh and costs about 15k dong or about $.50. Not a bad deal to sit and people watch. I repeated once and decided to be on my way. I wanted to just find these little places. Down some side street or alley where the signs rose up and people for some reason become even more friendly and social.

These kinds of places give me pause when I walk. I feel like so much is left behind when I finally start writing and looking at the photos.

The alleys turned back and forth on themselves and I just stopped trying to use Google Maps after my first go at it. What I wanted instead was the spirit of the going. This first place was lovely and sublime with the signs, people waving and smiling, and all the little signs of a social life and neighborhood contained in these small walkways. Motorbikes will always ride the center and demand the right of way so I just slowed down to find the cadence of the walks, the wonderful signs for a hair salon and beauty parlor, a small store. Even a place where the chickens are being prepared for a dinner table somewhere.

I walked further along. Life seemed to be the richness and tapestry of close walls with a side street turning lefts and rights and sometimes back on itself. I had no idea without looking at Google Maps where I was exactly and it felt so right. Steps melted away. I found my way to yet more turns and other side streets.

Was there an order and a preferred way? No. And I did not want one. Finally I found my way out to a bigger area and there was this piece of wreckage in the middle of this little lagoon or pool. I could not tell at first glance what it was but I had suspicions.

Soon though I found a marker of some long ago war where people dropped bombs and shot each other and this wreckage was from then. There in front of the lagoon is this sign.

So I stood a moment taking it all in. Some B-52 bomber visited here decades ago and never left. I left.

The alleys melted away and I found bigger streets welcoming me. I would soon exit to a known road. Meanwhile though I found a beautiful wall mural to take me away.

So the end was reached…

But it was just the beginning. My walk had wound around in some part of Hanoi I had never been to before. Side streets and alleys, friendly people waving, life in some glorious mix. How many steps? Where? I have no idea. It never matters the where or how long. What matter is the doing of it and then finding the words and photos later to share.

Hanoi is a city of places. Little places I go find on foot that may not be found again. I can delve into the mystery over the beer or my dinner at a nice Indonesian restaurant I have been to before but the truth is that the moments take their own toll. I take the day. Only a few more to wander this time. Hanoi shows me some other side. What other city I wonder could be anything like this wonderful place? To this itinerant wanderer and writer, the city gives me a canvas to go paint on.

And the end was reached to the day and this blog post.

January 20, 2023