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 Where the streets have no names

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Tổng số bài gửi : 88
Age : 22
Đến từ : DISNEY land
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Registration date : 01/07/2008

Bài gửiTiêu đề: Where the streets have no names   Wed Sep 03, 2008 2:19 pm

TGL – After four odd years prowling Hanoi’s streets in living The Good Life, I’ve discovered I have a startlingly small mental map of the city.

Look, it’s not for lack of getting out and about, lord knows we all do enough of that, belching smoke from our shabby two-strokes. I’m out almost every day – and nights for that matter – carousing around for a good story of adventure and obscure beverage.

Yet each and every time I get slipped an invitation to an art exhibition or new rock venue I find myself frantically searching for a map, often to discover that the street I am looking for is one I know every little hummock and pothole of, yet surprisingly not its name.

How do I get upside down from here?

Just the other day I was called down to an impromptu bia hoi meeting with the Minsk Club elders to discuss the upcoming summer plans.

Club Chairman Digby Greenhalgh spent some time on the phone trying to talk me through the loops and corners of an area of town I know relatively well. Basically the problem was that he immediately assumed I would know the small park with the bust of Louis Pasteur.

I was unaware that there was a bust of Louis Pasteur in a park. While the park itself is not small (by Hanoi park standards) the bust was… well, bust sized.

Not surprising I’d missed it before. But I didn’t miss the obvious pointer to how some expats really do navigate around. Everything is done off landmarks, with street names being seldom, if ever, mentioned.

My concept of the city is based on a series of destinations, rather than street names and direction. Truth be told I still give my north and south the old switch-a-roo at times, most often when boarding the Sapa train, which I am always sure is pointed in the wrong direction.

The destinations are used as a set of navigation points, which expand with experience.

Thusly one could navigate the fifteen-minute journey to 123 Karaoke (on Thai Ha St) by saying; “Go past the Temple of Literature, toward the Horison, then down past Goat and take a left at the cinema. Look for the Mot Hai Ba sign. Alternatively, left at the Temple and right at the triangle, which is faster.”

Obviously, such directions can cause problems for recent Hanoi arrivals, as the first route contains reference points that are actually quite far apart.

The Goat reference point is in itself quite tricky, as there are different “goat” venues. Goat is actually a restaurant that serves goat based meals and liquors. The goat in this case is one of two that are side by side on Lang Ha, but the reference point can be modified by adding the “water tower” prefix, which shifts the mark from Dong Da district all the way back to Hoan Kiem. Convenient? Not really.

Just to throw some more mud into the already perfectly unclear waters, bia hoi arrangements are done by street name, with absolutely no distinction between which establishment is being referred to.

For example, a text message may read “Bia? TD?”. Tong Dan is a long street, yet there is only one bia hoi being referenced. Similarly, if it’s raining, Ma May could be suggested. And we all still lament the loss of Ly Thuong Kiet.

Don’t even start to mess with the Ngoc Ha bia hoi references. There are two large, well-established bia barns lurking there behind the HCM Museum. Whichever one you think it is, you’ll be wrong.

So how is it that I’ve been prowling around here for four years and I still don’t know where Dinh Tien Hoang is? I drive on it every day apparently. I still get confused between Hang Gai and Hang Bai, both of which are small tail offs from other large streets (Hang Bong and Pho Hue respectively). And you don’t want to know how long it took me to figure out the weird T-shaped arrangement of Bao Khanh.

It’s all got me humming Upside Down From Here by Atom and His Package “…North is not up, and East is not right…” Ly Thai To or Le Thai To? It’s easier just to navigate off the building that has my embassy in it (New Zealand Embassy, 63 Ly Thai To St.) and be done with the whole thing.

Of course Hanoians look at me half bemused and half incredulous when I can’t figure out where Cha Ca St is (the wrong way up Toy Street, aka Luong Van Can, which is at different points also Hang Luoc and Hang Can). In simple terms Cha Ca is half way lake-wards from Water Tower Goat.

Hanoians seem to have been blessed with something similar to The Knowledge of London taxi drivers. Any destination you want to get to, they’ll know the street. Unfortunately it will take some to explain because they will have to list all the connecting avenues until they strike on one you actually know, then work back from there.

When out on the road of course, you’ll take the right a block too late. Confused, you’ll whip out the phone and call someone to navigate you from the nearest landmark. “Hang Vai? From Food Street? Turn left on the lake side of the train tracks and take a right when you see all the bamboo.”

Of course by now you’ll be asking why? As my mum used to say, “Y is a crooked letter”. I have no idea what she meant then and still don’t today, but in my travels I have discovered the reasons behind odd collective stopping points.

Landmarks look different during high speed cornering.

On sunny days, most motorbike riders will stop well shy of the lights, often to the side of the road. This may be obvious to some, and then again it may not.

I figured it out the first sunny midsummer’s day as I drove to work, sweating like a pig. Stopping in the shade of a roadside tree while the lights change makes sense and is far more comfortable. My journey to work now is plotted off a series of conveniently placed trees.

I often get teased for this behaviour, usually by first year expats. The following summer they’re usually doing it too.

There is another odd stopping point took me a while to figure out. Or rather I thought I had, and for that reason didn’t stop, but I sure will in future. Luckily this wasn’t something I learned the hard way, but took my lesson from someone who had.

The train crosses the dyke road (Tran Nhat Duat) across Long Bien Bridge, a massive metal construction built by the very same chap that made the Eiffel Tower, and looks very much like it in a horizontal way.

Imagine the noise a train would make driving down the side of the Eiffel Tower, and it would seem logical not to drive under the bridge where it passes over the road.

It is indeed very loud, but as it turns out, this isn’t why everyone except unwitting foreigners stops before the bridge as the train thunders overhead.

Toileting facilities being what they usually are on trains around the world, polite society asks us not to use the toilet while the train is in station, so most of us will have a quick pit stop just before the station.

Coming into Hanoi, this is fine as the train trundles across the river, but for all those folks careening down the dyke road, it could spell an unpleasant return.


Matt Black


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Tổng số bài gửi : 88
Age : 22
Đến từ : DISNEY land
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Registration date : 01/07/2008

Bài gửiTiêu đề: Re: Where the streets have no names   Wed Sep 03, 2008 2:20 pm

thử dọc cái này đi!
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