Hanoi, Vietnam, 11 p.m. A taxi delivers a travel-weary American to the heart of Old Town. The car stops in front of a building whose facade has been torn down. Inside the building are signs of construction and neglect, in equal measure. The American re-reads the address on his folded computer print-out.
Me: Umm…this is the hotel, I think.
Taxi-driver: Sir, there is no hotel here.
Me: Uh…yeah, I guess not.
For too long I’ve neglected my visit to Vietnam. My ambition wants to construct a grand narrative. My practical self repeats the phrase, “perfect is the enemy of good.” Imperfection wins this round.
Here are two of my favorite photos from Hanoi. The first is of a dilapidated building in Old Town, a wall missing from the second story. Two boys sit near the ledge, looking down at the young men below. This is Hanoi: young, changing, physically decaying, but lively, safe (or so it felt to me), and fascinating.
And then there’s the hat shop. A long day of walking all over Hanoi left me worn down, dehydrated, longing for some creature comforts. I passed this hat store and was overcome with the desire to own one of these lovely, colorful creations. I’ve never known the thirst for luxury more deeply than when I saw these women’s hats.