Hanoi(ingly late)

Greetings from SE Asia my Lovers. Yesterday marked one week in my new home of Hanoi, and while I have spent the majority of my time either working or sleeping, I still have plenty to report on the Random front. I am truly in a different world, in every sense of the word. Europe was beautiful and romantic, not drastically different from home, and you could almost always find someone who spoke English, or you could at least fumble your way through the language. Hanoi does not afford us any of these luxuries – even if you can find “western” food, goods and influence on almost every corner.

Marky, DL, Ktunes and I all arrived in Hanoi on a 7 hour overnight flight from Dubai. I sat between the boys while they slept, unable to zonk out myself despite the copious amounts of free Jack Daniels Emirates provided. Customs was a breeze, contradictory to the horror stories we had been prepped with, but I was tired and cranky and a whiny little girl. They keys to my home (and my eventual sleep) were at the workspace (Toong) with Pigeon, so DL and I ubered/napped there to gain my access to my home and also my data – Vietnam is the one place that T-Mobile is not a thing. Our first introduction to the language barriers was arguing with our Uber driver who was supposed to carry us on, but it didn’t work out and we were left on the sidewalk with our baggage in hand. DL had a call, so we ducked into Cowboy Jack’s, a restaurant downstairs from Toong that can best be described as a Vietnamese Hooters. One business call, two plates of chicken cartilage, and a few beers later, we start our search for our Hanoi homes. The address provided to us is NOT accurate, so we spend the next HOUR dragging ourselves up and down the street, dripping with sweat, trying to find our air conditioned apartments for the month. Skeen to the rescue, we each find our destinations, I unpack a bit and go down for a much needed nap before my first taste of the night shift.

The next evening has me missing some faces, so I venture out to , my new favorite cocktail bar, to meet some fellow Earharts and have my first flaming Pho cocktail – which is every bit as delicious as it sounds. We leave Nê and wander to the corner for some actual pho, served on the sidewalk while sitting 6 inches from the ground on a plastic stool.  After lighting ourselves up with chili sauce, we move to Xofa for some iced coconut coffee to cool off in the monstrous heat and humidity.  The crew eventually breaks off, but Phil the Thrill, Bonina and I aren’t ready to turn it in, so we catch on Uber to the Old Quarter, follow some nice young expats into a ruin type bar that is entered to through a scooter rental shop, meet some english teachers (seriously, everyone here teaches english) who then take us to another corner where we drink Vietnamese beer and chat amongst our group of 20 or so until the sun comes up – sitting a corner on plastic stools 6 inches from the ground.

The next week is mainly me trying to manage the jet lag, a new work schedule (8pm-2am seems to be my jam), and one hell of a sinus infection. Its not until the end of the week that I really start to hit my groove, but a forced 10am wake up one day for Town Hall allows me to explore in the daylight, grab lunch and catch up with an Australian beauty, hit the grocery store, and stumble upon the cutest little park with a lake just a few blocks from Toong. Naps a plenty, grabbing 90 minutes here and there, I finally start to feel human enough to interact with the world, only my world now is limited to my fellow creatures of the night – those of us bound either loosely or tightly to US hours. We inhabit Toong until the wee hours of the morning, pack it in and head over to Puku, the late night joint that hosts us until sun up when we depart for our blackout shaded rooms for our 8 (or 10) hours of slumber.

The streets of Hanoi are filled with scooters and motorbikes – and the sidewalks, and the alleys, and, well, pretty much everywhere – you even see them inside.  Crossing the street was best described by Becks as a delicate game of frogger – although basic strategy dictates picking a moment, picking a speed and just going for it.  Which brings me to one of my favorite things about Hanoi: Uber. Moto. When you think about it, UberMoto makes perfect sense in the organized chaos that is the streets of Hanoi – and when you factor in that each ride only costs $.44 (read that right, forty-four cents), its a no brainer. Riding an UberMoto makes you feel like you are a part of the elite Hanoi scooter gang -each red light a new chance to be in a sea of motorbikes all revving at the same time to take off and ignore all proper traffic laws – lanes, lights, one ways – anything goes.

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Saturday night is ladies night, and we all get dressed up in our sexy best (much better than your Sunday best) and head to The Rooftop – a swanky joint on the 19th floor of the Saigon Hotel with expansive views of the Hanoi skyline. A girl DJ and drinks named “The Hot Lady” have us turning the joint into a dance club, because Earharts can start a dance party anywhere. Once we’ve exhausted our welcome there, we descend down to the lobby (with one daring rescue of a damsel in douchebag distress) and walk more than a few blocks in the drizzling rain to our next destination – The Toilet.  Despite it’s name, the club itself is quite swank, but the vibe is weird and we leave after not being about to dance the weirdness away.  Back to Puku, where there’s always Earharts to be found, a little sheisha, a little whiskey, and I’m home to pack for my 6am departure to Sapa (see Sleep When I’m Dead for overnighter status continued).

Week 1 recap: Hanoi is hot and humid and I mostly see it under cloak of night.  I moto as often as I can, eat food from street corners while sitting on cheap plastic stools and I questions anything that costs more than $4.  Side trips often require all nighters, and sleep is gotten where I can get it.  There’s more to come, so stick around Lovers; the Asian Random has just begun.

Specifically Yours,

SR

P.S. I know, this post is late – upon posting I only have two weeks left in Hanoi – but don’t fret, all will be revealed – I would never abandon your Love.  Kisses.

Lisboa

Dearest Lovers of Random – I promised a post about my latest city of habitation, Lisbon Portugal.  As referenced in my past post, Lisbon has been a different feel for me.  I’m an employed woman now and I am throughly enjoying being an accounting badass again.  I’m running a fitness challenge and have started a new weightlifting program, so I’m enjoying slinging weights again (thanks Dustin!). Budapest may have felt like home, but Lisbon feels much like my old life…. with a European twist, of course.

What can I tell you about Lisbon? Well, for starters, its dirty. In the midst of an economic rebound, there is construction everywhere, which means there is dust everywhere. Also, most of the drinking is done in the streets. So is the male relief of the by-product of that alcohol. Speaking of the drinking in the streets, Lisbon is also loud. At least my home is. Situated between the two bar districts in town, Barrio Alto and Pink Street, and having a few lively places of our own, there is always a chorus of drunken madness wafting it’s way up to my windows. Also directly beneath my window, a tram rail and a bus stop. Both run frequently. The sidewalks are narrow. The locals hate tourists. In the dead of summer, every day is hot and there are hills everywhere. But all of this is just as much a part of the unique charm of Lisbon as the tile buildings, towering staircases, stone walkways and street art filled walls. I’ve learned that Lisbon is a lot like me…. you love it for what it is, or you move on. It does not apologize for what it is.

In most cases, this dedication to culture is heartwarming and satisfying in the form of decorated plazas, delightful local dishes (I recommend the duck rice at Castro), and a wine culture that rivals any I have ever seen. Seriously, two buck chuck has nothing on the bottles you can get here for 3 euro. Some if it is better than a $50 bottle at home. There is a craft cocktail bar – 4 Caravelas – where I can walk through the door and order a Bulliet rye, and the Australian expat who owns the place automatically puts the dash of bitters that I enjoy so much and only had to ask for once. We can talk about the subtleties and differences of rye, bourbon and scotch while I sip my cocktail and it reminds me of HBG at home, because my glass is never really empty. There’s Helio, the local who runs the aforementioned Castro’s, a quaint bar and eatery offering open air seating in vintage upholstery served with a side of conversation about local culture. There’s Red Frog, a speakeasy that reminds me of Death & Co in NYC, although the door guy is a midget instead of a towering ape in a tux. There is Foxtrot, with it’s open courtyard and smoky old fashions. And one of my personal favorites, Baguettes & Cornets, a French corner bakery with the best baked treats and the friendliest staff in Europe.

But Lisbon also has a dark side, and it is ugly. I never personally experienced it, so I don’t feel I have the right to write about it, but you can read my tramily’s takes on the events of one horrible evening here and here. I have no respect for those who fuck with the people that I love, and I love my fellow Earharts deeply, so Lisbon will always carry a scar on my heart. But if I were to lump all of Lisbon in with the few neanderthals that perpetuated the events of that night, I would be no better than them.

In the spirit of open mindedness, I climbed the hills of Lisbon and watched sunrises and sunsets. I peered down it’s picturesque alleys and enjoy local wine in it’s parks. I ran along the river and watched the rising sun sparkle across it. I boarded a sailboat with friends old and new to see sunset from the Tagus and eat homemade stew between bouts of uncontrollable laughter. I wandered Pink Street and Barrio Alto after late night shifts. The Goddess visited and we sipped sangria with DL on top of a parking deck while watching the sunset over a bridge that resembles the Golden Gate. She and I swank it up at the Palácio do Governador with pool time, spa visits and girl talk in hotel rooms. I enjoy meals and drinks and late night deep chats with the 11 other souls living in my building. I do my best to make the most out of my time in Lisbon. That said, I’m not disappointed to leave.

My European adventure has come to an end. I’ll spend a few days in the Middle East before starting my life in Southeast Asia, and I don’t even have a clue what to expect, so I’m ready for anything. Stay tuned for the Random adventures: Vietnam addition.

Specifically Yours,

SR