56 Photos - Aug 20, 2007
Photo: Hoan Kiem Lake.

Hoan Kiem means "Returned Sword". Legend has that, way back when in 1010, king Le Thai To, after a victorious battle against the then invader, had a cruise on the lake. A turtle (apparently a talking one) emerged and demanded the king to return the sword (which, in another part of the legend, had been lent to him by some sort of god) citing that the country were now in peace. The King did. Peace didn't stick for long but the name has remained since.

It's a very nice lake right in the middle of Hanoi with tons of people hanging out all the time, playing chess, reading or just looking at one another or at the foreign tourists. There are other things around the lake to see too, such as the Ngoc Son Pagoda, which is the house of a real deceased turtle (presumably the one that took the sword), the Water Puppet theater, Hanoi Opera House, Hanoi Moi newspaper, Hanoi Post Office...

There are indeed huge turtles in the lake. Some are believed to be hundreds of years old.Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Dog meat and Bia Hoi. This is a Beer restaurant at Hanoi Beer Brewery. Bia Hoi (sort of like draft beer) is the best and most popular drink in Hanoi. It's cheap, tasty and goes very well with any kinds of food. It's a perfect treat on a hot day, which is everyday there during summer. It's said that if you go out on a date with a girl and have dog meat, that signifies a great deal the level of intimacy between the two. I am not sure about the general level of truth in that but I am sure it's not correct this particular time.Photo: And this is dog meat with a western twist: Smoked dog meat. While most westerners are scared (if not disgusted) by the idea of dogs being served as delicacy, this man from Cezch Republic was intrigued by the idea (and probably convinced by the taste) has founded a restaurant serving dogs prepared the western way: smoked. I tried it and it tastes kinda weird. The beer there was good though. Just for the record, the breed of dogs used for food in VN are very different from those "humans' best friends" like most of us would think of. They are not cute, not even in the same zip code with "cute" and... very food-friendly. After all, we should just come to terms with where we're in the food chain.Photo: A Hanoi street (which is under construction) after a shower. In summer, it rains so fast and so heavily that lots of streets are flooded immediately afterward. If you are caught by the rain, riding a bike, it's often not worth it to stop to put on a poncho, by the time you are done putting it on, you are possibly already soaked (and  the rain might have stopped). I like it though, it's cool (literally too).Photo: A Tay (western foreigner) having a tricycle ride on Hang Bong street, looking at souvenir stores on either side...Photo: ...Inside one of those stores.Photo: Though there are more and more cars and scooters on the street, bicycles are still very popular in Hanoi. Growing up kids love having a bicycle as a present. In the photo, my niece's having her first bicycle assembled.Photo: This is Hang and Son at a annual high school reunion, which I was able to attend this year, first time in 8 years. I used to have a huge crush on Hang way back when. This doesn't mean anything, really, 'cause I used to have crushes on almost all of the female classmates, on top of those who weren't classmates. The twist is Son also had a crush on her and he and I were buddies... The story didn't end up well, Hang got married to somebody else and Son and I, we're both still virgins to this day. OK, not sure about me but I am pretty sure he is.Photo: This is Minh Long. A good journalist friend who were (apparently no more a virgin) having some very serious and disturbing relationship problem. But what's new? Don't we all have to go through some of those at one point?Photo: Photo: A paddy field on the way to my village. For many years I worked on fields like this one. Love the green, it looks like many satisfying meals.Photo: A typical market in the countryside. Everything is fresh...Photo: ...Except of course, for the pre-manufactured offerings. These are money for the under (or above) world. You bought these sheets then burn them together with incense to offer it to your dead relatives. Much like you deposit a check into a bank account of somebody alive (like me for example, if any of you are feeling generous, my account numer is...).Photo: A kid accompanying his mom to the market and was fascinated by the lens.Photo: Mom and her old time friend in the village. They are still friends.Photo: This is the fire place that cooked, up to now, most of my meals. It literally helped bring me up. Nothing fancy, just a tripod and a quadpod and lots of straw and a matchbox. Its' been pretty much like that since 1976. In 2000 when the electricity arrived in the village for the first time, we put in the light bulb that, just a few days later, was covered with soot and was hardly turned on anymore. It's never been replaced, the bulb. 

In 2006, we bought a gas stove so that grandparents can cook their meals more conveniently and this kitchen has been hardly used since.Photo: Grandma was very tired when I got back to the village. Unlike how she looks in the photo, she actually was in a very good spirit. Most of all, she still knows how to have good time: She always has a good colection of booze in her drawer, supplied frequently by my older brother, who goes back to the village once in a while and have a drink with her. I wish I could do the same. Each time I see her, each time I am afraid that it would be the last time. She's 95-ish. Grandparents are the oldest people of the village.Photo: Grandpa was in a better mood.Photo: This isAnh Vai, my remote relative (I can't remember the connection but it's something like his mother is the sister of my mother's mother's sister's husband or something like that). However, Vai is the one who live the closest to my grandparents' house, which is on the left of the photo, and is the one who takes care the most of grandparents.Photo: Parallel 17th, the bridge that, contrary to its purpose, divided the country between 1954 and 1975. Half of the bridge belonged to the defunct Southern Republic of Vietnam. Mom and I are standing on the northern part that belonged to the then Republic Democratic of Vietnam. This is where the most VNese soldiers of both sides died in many battles in 1975. It was really a shame, they were all Vietnamese…. One of them is my uncle Manh.Photo: Anh Co, my brother in law, used to be a soldier too.Photo: Uncle Manh lied to the goverment about his age to be accepted in the army. 3 month later he was killed in the war's most deadly battle around the 17th Parallel. He was just a little bit over 17 years old. I was born a few years after he had died but have learnt so much about him that I felt like I really know him somehow. On the only photo at home, he looks like a very handsome man.Photo: Me praying to uncle Manh. I thought about asking him to bestow me with a 2007 Camry Hybrid and the contacts of the cute girl I had met earlier at the restaurant we stopped for lunch whose number I was too scared to ask. However, realizing that he died a virgin without much possession, I asked him to somehow help bring peace to Iraq and the rest of this crazy world and I really hope that he is happy up there with his friends, who actually lie right here around him. Most importantly, I thanked him for his sacrifice. Vietnam has been in peace for a while and now is in pretty good shape. Without heroes like him, I and many others wouldn't be who we are today. He didn’t die in vain… I am sure he knows. For me, I need some luck. So wish me luck, Uncle Manh!Photo: Mom is burning the offerings. That's a lot of money, supposedly, I hope he and his friends can party for a while...Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: The Canadians and their Vietnamese bride.Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: