Saturday, 9 November 2013

Sat 26th Oct - Out and about in Hanoi

There's a romantic view of French Indochina that is perpetuated by the surviving colonial architecture, the remaining French street names and the obvious culinary influences. As a red-blooded Franco-filly-cinephile, I had to make a quick visit to the Kinh Do cafe. During the filming of Indochine in '92, this cafe hosted Catherine Deneuve, who ate the homemade yoghurt here every morning. She returned a couple years later for the premier, and took as her guest the proprietor, Mr Lu Chi. You can see his photo on the left of frame here:
He's well into his nineties now, but was at the cafe when I visited, keeping a watchful eye over his children who now run the show, and his clientele, just me and passing punters picking up the freshly baked patisseries. 
His own story is interesting enough, spending many years in self-imposed exile in French New Caledonia, learning to bake, and sending money back to support Ho Chi Minh's nationalist movement, he's still got the grateful telegrams signed by Uncle Ho.
Being lunch time I eschewed their famous yoghurt and pastries in favour of a bowl of Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) which is the Hanoian speciality, made with bunches of fresh coriander and garnished with lime and chopped red chillies. Delicious, but messy. Don't wear a white shirt.
Opposite Kinh Do cafe, this house has really let nature encroach.

I love the way the main rail artery of the country, the reunification express just runs nonchalantly down the street, with no fences, platforms or level-crossings to separate long-distance travellers from the back doors of Hanoian scooter mechanics shops and fashion retailers.
This is the Presidential Palace where Ho Chi Minh received state visits, being a man of the people he chose to live not here, but in a much more humble stilt house round the corner.

And this is where he resides now, when not on vacation in Russia for formaldehyde replenishment.

At dusk I walked up to the West Lake, where I saw these swans. They reminded me of that Iain Sinclair/ Andrew Kotting documentary about the River Lea as Olympic park was built over it.

I don't think this boy knew I was photographing him as he fished, but I'd like to thank him for the great photos.

I kept on shooting until the Mosquitos became intolerable. 

A bit of a Hanoi street life. 
Settled into a little local bar on one of the pub corners.
Going Native with freshly brewed Bia Hoi from a keg on the street (18 pence) and a plate of chickens' feet. Needs garlic.

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