I've been super tired all day today.
It was raining the first half of the day. I spent a few hours editing my website (you should check it out if you haven't yet! This post isn't on there yet because I don't feel like going back on the computer) and then decided to go to this bookstore I have been wanting to go to since last week.
I had a kind of strange experience on my way there. It was raining, and I was planning on just taking a taxi, but then a man with a motorbike stopped me and asked if I wanted a ride (a very frequent occurrence here.) Mostly I have been too afraid to get on the motorbikes - I definitely don't trust myself driving one, and I have a hard time trusting anyone else driving me. I also have this need to cling very closely to the person in front of me otherwise I feel like I'm going to fall off, which has made for some awkward experiences. Haha I've only actually gotten on one 3 times, for short distances, and from people I knew.
Anyway so I'm standing there telling this man where I want to go, because a motorbike is cheaper than a taxi (we're talking like 1 dollar instead of 2), and he asked and I figured why not. But this man was with a bunch of other men on motorbikes, and while he was holding my phone, asking the others about where I was going, one of the men off to the side widened his eyes at me and shook his head. He did it over and over, tilting his head toward the man with my phone, and then looking at me and clearly saying no, no. I really didn't get it, didn't know why this man didn't want me to go with the other, but that was enough for me. I giggled a bit and reached for my phone and said something about the rain and how I just didn't want to get wet and would take the taxi instead. And I left. It was totally fine. It was just kind of a strange occurrence.
I did end up finding a taxi and went to the bookstore, which was so cute and exactly what I wanted. It was mostly used books. I found a big book that breaks down the entire history of the Vietnam war, which is what I was looking for. I sat in the bookstore for a long time just enjoying the quiet and the smells of old books and looking through things. When I was leaving, as I was buying my book, the man asked me if I lived in Hanoi. I really really really wanted to say, "yes."
I walked back from the bookstore because the sun had come out again. I do not think there is any way better than walking to really get to know a place. I guess with a motorbike or car you can still see things, but it's not the same. You can't stop every 5 seconds to interact or wonder about what you're looking at. This walk was perfect because I hadn't been in that direction yet and I stumbled upon this market, food everywhere. I crossed paths with a tour too and heard the guy telling them that the people aren't actually allowed to set up in the middle of the street like they are in the one picture. He said as soon as law enforcement comes, everyone takes their stuff and runs. I find that so funny.
One of my favorite things about Hanoi is that they honestly sell particular things on particular streets. Apparently the streets are actually named after what's being sold on them ("silk st," etc) which doesn't help me because I don't read Vietnamese. But it's so entertaining to walk down a street of all the same item. There's a street where people sell just dried herbs. A street with clothes. A street with army clothes. A street with plastic boxes. A street with dried fish. A street with pet goldfish in little jars. I'm not making this up - I just love it. It's like, the exact same item for an entire street in a row, and it makes no sense to me. I don't know how anyone decides who to buy from.
I'm so exhausted for no reason really but I'm staying another night in Hanoi and then tomorrow night will take the bus back to Sapa. Everyone I meet is like, "why are you going back if you've already been there? Why don't you go south?"
I don't know the answer to that question except for that it's just what I feel like I want to do.
I want to spend months in this country. I could stay here for so long. And I've only even explored the tip of it