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  • Day180

    Hanoi

    October 16, 2015 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    After some internet research we located a hotel with a swimming pool nearby, which allowed non-guests to use for a fee. With the white hot sun forecast to hammer down unobstructed, it felt like an opportune way to spend the day. The hotel was situated south of the Old Quarter, where wide tree-lined streets accommodated French architecture. We past the Italian Embassy, in the grounds of which Labrettas and Vespas sat in glass showcases. Vacant-faced sales assistants of pristine Italian fashion houses starred out of their glass prisons waiting for the diplomats and their entourages to spend diplomat dollars. In the evenings locals use the wide pavements as badminton courts, couples in western attire pose for their wedding photos whilst brass bands practice on the steps of the Opera House.

    At the hotel, aptly called ‘Army Guesthouse’, men and women in dark green military uniform with detail in gold and red walked with purpose as we meandered to the pool. The buildings appeared worn and in need of care but the pool was clean, its topaz floor shimmering hypnotically underwater. When we arrived we were the only people using the pool but by the afternoon we were joined by German sunbathers and Vietnamese swimmers.

    As Alex helped Kim apply sun lotion to her back, Kim noticed a Vietnamese man intently watching her from the water. Feeling uncomfortable, Kim turned herself so Alex blocked the man’s view. Alex turned to seek a view of the man for himself and chuckled when he was confronted with the image of an archetypal ‘dirty old man’. The small dark gnome face with dark piggy eyes sneered upward as one hand feverishly picked at the nose and the other hand was probably feverishly elsewhere. After this episode as well as witnessing further instances of ‘picking and spitting’ into the pool’s water by the locals (including the pool attendant) we decided to skip swimming again.

    The sun curved over the pool to dip under the west side of the hotel building and cause shadows to slowly creep across the tiled floor. We returned to our hostel and after dark walked amongst families, couples and joggers along the beautifully illuminated Hoan Kiem Lake.
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