Ducking low-hanging baskets and dodging rushing men pushing carts overflowing with wholesale goods, a multitude of smells and stenches came at us from every direction; merchants barked sale orders over SIM-card fuelled cellphones; and the bright colors of a wide array of products for sale leaped out from their dimly-lit stalls.
Christmas is big in Vietnam.
One of the many pleasures of Hanoi is waking up at 5 a.m., walking (or running) to Hoan Kiem Lake, and seeing the city come alive—with hundreds of people of all ages, but more in the 60-80 year-old range, exercising together. (The average age seems to drop later in the morning, with more people in their 20s and 30s exercising by 6:30 or so.) Seeing so many people come together before dawn to move around and stay healthy and limber is an incredible and inspiring sight.