A hurricane made landfall in central Vietnam and being a generous individual, it is currently making sure that Hanoi receives its share of the rainfall.
Before the drizzle became torrential, the walking tour guide Hoang asked if it was true that in the UK we can start the day with sunshine and find that it is raining by lunchtime.
“Four seasons in one day,” I replied though I think we had endured five in Hanoi by lunchtime.
I was up bright and early and had set out for a walk to seek out street art and aim for the Temple of Literature.
By the time I had reached Train Street, I realised I didn’t have time to visit the Temple and join the walking tour.
So I set off walking down the tracks and I found some of my favourite graffiti in Hanoi.
As I passed a cafe, four older people sitting on small stools called out to me and consistently waved me in to join them for a coffee.
This was something I did have time for, before joining the walking tour and they corrected my Vietnamese pronunciations of ‘hello’ and ‘thankyou’ as well as teaching me to say ‘happy’… ‘vuy’.
It was a great start to the day and I really like Vietnamese coffee… though far stronger than I’m used to. This could get addictive.
Once on the walking tour, we explored the Old Quarter as the rain became steadily heavier.
The streets of the Old Quarter are named for the products they sell and while, officially three are 36 reflecting the number of guilds that were based here, there are many more.
Land is at a premium price here and when we passed a restaurant called Hoang’s, we pointed it out to our guide and asked if there was any connection.
“If I owned a restaurant here,” he laughed. “I would stay inside counting my money rather tha leading tours.”
We visited the house where Ho Chi Minh lived for a week, preparing for independence. A very wealthy couple supported his work and provided their house as a base for his group to carry out their work.
The owners of the house now live on the top floor and the rest of the building is a museum of this period in history.
The Heritage House provided a dry setting for Hoang to tell us stories about life in Hanoi, traditional practices for arranging marriages, how badly a household could feed their servants and the love story of tea.
The taste of Vietnamese tea, which I haven’t yet sampled, is at first bitter and later sweet.
This apparently reflects the story of tea. A man and a woman wanted to marry but they were not of the same status and their families opposed the match.
The woman wept so much, in grief, that she became a river. The man wished to become a mountain beside the river so that they could be together forever.
Tea grows in the soil of the mountain and is watered by the river. The taste of the tea therefore reflects the bitter beginning of the story and the later happy ending.
I’m going to have to test this theory.