A scene of life in Hanoi

A slow day under the summer heat in Hanoi. | Photo courtesy of Vinh Nguyen

Morning, 7 a.m., the time when the early birds start chirping and hunting for those juicy worms, the time when the sun rises above the gloomy navy sky and also the time when people of the world start their day. You can hear the clanking sound of doors opening and birds chirping to the point of annoyance outside your window. People are readying vehicles for their anticipated commute to school or their workplace. It is fascinating how a place can look so boring to one person yet so exciting to others who are not bound by the responsibilities of that place.

The pace of the new day begins differently for everyone. Some hurry for their early shift at 5 a.m., while others enjoy slacking until 9 a.m. The nearby market is getting crowded as people shop for their daily meal.

As the circle of work and school life continues on according to schedule, soon comes the noon hour welcoming the sun up high, which radiates its brilliant sunshine or “stinging ray of heat” as so many put it. Restaurants can be busy at times since people off work look for the next place to satisfy their boredom and hunger, often with bowls of food filled to the rim and casual conversation full of laughter. As fun as everyone is having, work can’t finish itself. People are packing their bags to finish their work, resuming the quiet office atmosphere.

“DING DING DING,” rings the bell as the hour of evening approaches for students at school. Finally, it is time for relaxation and getting comfortable with your favourite things. As a story of heroic tale goes, one would find themselves in the final battle with powerful forces before reaching their goals. In this real tale of life, that force is the commute home. People prepare themselves with big masks to protect their lungs from the dusty air emitted from vehicles and revved up motorcycles on this big battlefield. Each vehicle moves slowly in a long line of traffic. Some small motorbikes may slither their way ahead of traffic, but that only creates a messy flow. As exhausting as it sounds, people eventually reach their homes and are happy to take time to treat themselves after a long day at work.

Street food for Hanoi residents is a way of relaxing after stressful work hours. Generally, street food is found in stores facing the streets, offering myriad treats such as nem chua, ice cream cones and so much more. Street food also brings about a new way to experience special Hanoi cuisine, which makes everyone curious. Some older nem chua stores may hide themselves behind massive, metropolitan buildings, but they are still crowded by the masses eagerly waiting to taste such wonders. As street food expands in so many forms and tastes, people are constantly looking for their next destination of this fast food culinary experience.

If you walk by a neighborhood around 6 p.m., listen to your surroundings for the clacking sound of ceramic bowls clashing against each other when brought to a dining table. The familiar sound of metal spoons and wooden chopsticks may be stuck in your head when your neighbour gets home at 6 p.m. Everyone is setting up the dining table for a big, hearty meal and for family bonding time.

But don’t walk away yet, the indulgence has just begun: listen to the synchronized sounds of laughter as families watch their favourite TV shows after dinner. A peculiar screech can reach your ear from a person who may have gotten too sucked into a Friday night comedy.

The neighbourhood soon chimes down as the hour of sleep arrives. Now falling into a quiet atmosphere, the Hanoi life scene cycles again.