Hustle in HANOI: West Sunlake

Hanoi, May 12th 2010

Sixth destination: Sunset hunting at West Lake or Ho Tay. This is my main destination. Thanks to Mr. Manh from Sunshine Travel who gave me the information of the place to capture sunset by West Lake. It's on Thanh Nien Street.

I wonder where did the name "West Lake" come from. If you google for "West Lake", you'll get lots of information and photos, but very likely about the West Lake in China. I fancy that the immigrants hundred years ago (maybe) who crossed the boarder to Vietnam missed their West Lake. So when they saw this lake in Hanoi, they named it "West Lake", too.

Next to West Lake in Hanoi, is a smaller lake called Silver Lake. Vietnamese seem to be fond of the color silver. I already know 2 waterfalls in 2 different places having the same name "Silver Waterfall". I wonder if they have a Silver Mountain.

I arrived on Thanh Nien Street at 4:00 PM. I surveyed the place to find the best spot to capture sunset. Since there was still so much time before sunset, I decided to walk the streets. I loved the vicinity there. I loved to see the people gathering under drench trees by the lake while sitting on their special short stools and sipping tea or coffee. Life looked so good and peaceful -- a contrary to the stories and movies of Vietnam during war. I'm happy for these people.

I walked and walked until Silver Lake. Suddenly my mobile phone rang. It was Mr. Duan, my driver. He asked me where I were and said that he could not park too long there. Ooops, I didn't know that. In Jakarta, when there is no "No Parking" sign, you may park forever :P I told Mr. Duan that I would return to the place where he dropped me off soon. I thought I was almost close, but then I faced a winding road in front of me. I became worried it would be too long for Mr. Duan. Besides, my feet were getting tired also. I looked at the signs above the shops along the street. It said Yen Phu. I spotted a closed shop and stop there. I copied the address written above the shop and texted Mr. Duan to fetch me at that address. After that I just sat on the street with my camera backpack just like that. No one even seemed to noticed. A few minutes later Mr. Duan came and laughed when he saw me. Crazy tourist, so must he have said in his heart.

I asked Mr. Duan to take me back to the same spot as before and told him that he could pick me up at 6:00 PM. Huahhh... it's relaxing, you know, sitting by West Lake. I wore on my sunglasses, hugged my legs, and drank a cup of Vietnamese yogurt. There are some benches there and the place is pretty clean. I noticed some Vietnamese coming there in beautiful clothes, have their pictures taken mostly using a pocket camera, and then leave.

Then came a woman on a bicycle. She came close to me and said something. I answered in English that I couldn't speak Vietnamese. She pointed at my watch. "Time," she said. I held my arm higher so she could see my watch. She nodded, and went back to her bicycle. She unloaded her bicycle. Wow... it turned out she was going to set a food stall here. Right in front of my targeted-sunset-to-be! Phew.

Suddenly I was reminded about the golden rule of photography: If something becomes an obstacle, turn that obstacle into an object. And so I did.

I rejoiced when she herself moved forward and covered my sunshine, like this:
I deliberately squad in front of her and shot her, and yet she did not move an inch! Oh, my poor sunshine!

I went back to my comfort zone, the bench. I started checking my shots. Suddenly I felt things rushing around me. I looked up. That woman who stole my sunshine had vanished! So had here stools and coconut. I looked around. Ah, there she is! She was standing behind a tree with her bicycle and all her treasure on the bicycle. The "baby stools" were piled neatly above it. I turned to the sidewalk along the lake where there were many food stalls like hers. They too had vanished. All that peace I had admired before and was happy for, had all vanished! A woman after another passed by in a bit rush in front of me. Some were on bicycles. Some carried baskets on their shoulders. Wow! This is another opportunity I must not miss.

Tara! Gotcha!

But within only 15 minutes, I think, they all came back one by one... and set their "baby stools" one by one on the pavement block. It seems that they are actually not allowed to do business there. Just like in Jakarta. But they have their trusted secret agent who will give a special code and all of them will be gone in a sudden and back in a sudden also. Ah, humans are humans, anywhere.

I watched my sky. Not really bare, but not as much as I had expected. After this shot, I did not get any glimpse of the sun.

West Lake of Hanoi, see you again in September on this very same date, okay?

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