Courtney. September 14, 2010 @ 18:11
Living in Hanoi, part #3 - West Lake Tour
Kaberly and I had full intentions of being productive when the breadwinner of the house took off for work today.Although we didn't get business cards made, buy the 'Teaching English as a Foreign Language' books we need, copy our house keys so we don't have to hide our key under a brick everyday, get groceries, go to the Apple technician place so I can show you guys the photos of the Love Manch…We did get to explore the most awesome place in Hanoi.West Lake: our hood.
West Lake is the biggest lake in Hanoi.It was created from part of the Red River and is an important part of various Vietnamese legends. One of these legends says it was created after the battle of Lac Long Quan (the 'first true king' of the Vietnamese people) and a night-tail fox spirit.Because of this legend, West Lake used to be known as "Fox Corpse Swamp."The ambassadorial district, a water park, all of the nicest hotels and some of the nicest houses I've ever seen surround West Lake.Real estate prices here extremely high, so all of the buildings surrounding West Lake are exceptional in one or more ways. And West Lake is 20 meters from our front door.
After picking up some awesome-looking ponchos, Kaberly and decided to take a look around our area of the lake - a little recon mission to scope the talent, the nightlife, and the scene in general.We planned on going down the road a little but ended up riding around the lake for three hours, stopping frequently to gaze, gander and gawk.I've never seen such diversity in such a small space.Nuzzled in between the Sheraton, the 4 Seasons, and about six other 5-Star hotels, are what look like shantytown structures - about 5 meters sq in size.As we rode around the lake, we saw fisherman in their traditional Vietnamese hats, but wearing modern clothing or, in some cases, their panties (not water panties, the real panties).Past them was a team of kayakers, and past the kayakers were what you consider in Vietnam to be 'skyscrapers' (this is Hanoi, not London), and a water park.I'm not sure how much of this has to do with Vietnam still recovering from the American War and how much of it has to do solely with the economy, but this area is booming.Ritzy six-story mansions are being built every 50 meters, along with themed bars and lakeside restaurants.You can see new buildings go up anywhere in the world but here, they're being built next to 3,000-year-old temples and giant Lilly pad bays that have integral parts in the ancient myths of this country.
About ½ kilometer away from our house we saw a French-style property with the gates and security that a lot of the places around here have; but it also had a placard, so we backed our bikes up and looked.It was the Ambassador of Sudan.Another kilometer or two away was the Ambassador of Egypt.There was a whole gang of security and valet outside of Egypt's pad, and when Kaberly almost fell over in front of it while we were blatantly staring inside, giggling like schoolgirls, the guards started pointing and laughing at back at us.
The shoreline of West Lake is stunning, so I can see why it serves the purpose of what Kaberly and I deemed "Love Alley."A lot of the perimeter is incredibly vacant, other than a few fishermen here and there, the people who actually live on the lake, and their obnoxious American neighbors (us).Every time you turn around a blind corner you see a motorbike with a teenage couple on it, romancing each other.The worst part about it is that, because entire families tend to squeeze onto one motorbike to get from place to place in Hanoi, double ponchos (think: two people sharing a camel costume for Halloween) are sold on every corner.So who knows what those little high schoolers are doing around our lake?But we thought they looked pretty guilty and we didn't like it.
We rolled up to a place called Cibutra, which is like a gated community, but not like your American gated community, more like a gated sub-city of the Tay Ho district in Hanoi.It has gates and guards, but the gates are open and I'm not sure what the guards are there for.Inside are mansions, looking across at each other through Greek-esque statues of horses and Poseidon.When you drive into the sub-city center you drive under Napoleon pillars to country club restaurants with US fast food prices, various styles of pools, tennis courts, etc.There is also the United Nations primary school of Vietnam, Hanoi Academy, and Singapore International Academy.
We pulled in with Kaberly in front, a decent sized truck in between us, and me shortly behind.I saw Kaberly turn right, saw the truck turn right, blinding my view of Kaberly, and then six seconds later the truck went left, I saw Kaberly, with her bike tipped over (again), laughing hysterically.I asked, "What the hell did you just do?!" (Laughing hysterically, as well, and maybe peeing in a my pants a little).She claims her kickstand was down and it caused her to tip, but her kickstand was up so she's just a klutz.
When we got inside J.A.F.A café, Kaberly and I started to read the menu and Kaberly literally drooled when she read the description of the spicy tofu and eggplant dish.Our laughter attracted some attention from people who actually belonged in a place like this.The same man who witnessed the drool incident happened to be looking over five minutes later when Kaberly and I were sitting across from each other, intent looks on our faces, trying to get steam off of our mango shakes by blowing our breath onto them.He just laughed, rolled his eyes, and looked the other way.
Before we left J.A.F.A. we talked to the owner/ Kaberly's friend, Anna - awesome Kiwi chick with a great sense of humor.She informed us that all the rugby players come to J.A.F.A. around 18:00 on Friday nights… Guess who else will be at J.A.F.A. this Friday at 18:00?Mission accomplished.
Kaberly 'tipped' her bike over again when we got home.
Breadwinner Danielle was passed out on her laptop when we walked in so we decided to eat again.After we ate twice as much as we needed to, sitting 4 meters across from each other on the long ends of our giant table, like Kings, Kaberly said, "don't you just want to cut that passion fruit open and take a bite out of it without cutting it up?" (referring to the passion fruit in the fruit bowl we keep in the center of our table) I told her I was just thinking the same exact thing.That's when we realized we needed to buckle down on the job hunt.I pulled up our CVs to send to a potential employer.And that's when I saw it:Kaberly's resume that we had been sending out with mine and Danielle's to every English-teaching organization in Hanoi had a complete run-on sentence about how Kaberly wants to teach kids to 'speak Native American' for an objective.Peed my pants again.Kaberly thought I had gone over her resume before sending it out and she definitely did not proof read.After about five minutes we stopped laughing enough to call Danielle down to see what has been sent out with her resume everyday.