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Picture this… a window into Hanoi life

Sitting in a photo lab in in Hanoi, Vietnam presents a wonderful opportunity to get a snap shot of life in busy Hanoi…

One hot and sticky afternoon in Hanoi I decided to go and try to back up some images to DVD in a photo lab that I found the day before… all 12GB!

This proved to be time consuming and a little frustrating – in the end they said they would deliver to the hotel at 12.00am the next day.

While I sat there in the shop waiting for them to realise that they couldn’t do it while I waited, it was interesting to observe the world through the garage-door-like entrance that functions as the shop front.

Now I didn’t have my camera, so picture this if you can…

I’m in the shop… it is pretty basic. A long garage would be the best way to describe it. Sparsely filled with a small counter in front of where I was perched on a swivelling stool. On my left were two PC’s with a young lad getting in a huff trying to copy the data from my Compact Flash cards onto his struggling hard drive.

Behind me a couple of dusty old studio flash lights with soft boxes attached, this place must double as a budget studio for portraits or more likely passport or ID photos.

In front of me the scene unfolds… time compressed for the sake of this short story.

In the foreground an old man sits in the shop entrance… father I wondered? He slips on the entry step to the dismay of the old lady (his wife perhaps), and, though I cannot understand, she appears to tell him off.

People pass to and fro on the path outside, weaving in and out of the parked mopeds. The occasional tourist walks by and takes a double-take when they spot me sitting in the shop. The busy main street is teaming with bikes and cars… it is rush hour… it is rush hour all day in Hanoi!

A little child’s sandal falls from one bike as it speeds past – the bikes swirl past it, lost forever?

On the path opposite a young man with his girl friend appear to be getting a ticket from a traffic cop. Beyond is the park with trees and benches that rings the Hoan Kiem Lake. Nearby, an old man with an infant stands staring at the cop handing out the ticket…

Behind him a group of ladies are doing their exercises… some sort of fusion of tai-chi, massage and aerobics. At one point they stand in a line and pound each other’s backs like some sort of group massage. Another woman is twisting constantly at the waist, spinning a hula-hoop. The sidewalks come alive in the evenings, particularly with badminton.

Whilst this scene unfolds, the constant flow of motor bikes is reflected in the glass cabinets beside me.

In the distance the serene waters of the lake – this is Hanoi!



Hi Anne-Marie, I wish I was in a cafe in Hanoi right now… Vietnam is a wonderful country. Glad you liked the post…


Love love your post. In hanoi at the moment and for the last 2 days, did nothing much except sitting in cafes and watching people 🙂
Yes, this is Hanoi!


Hi Priyank, I did get the DVD done in the end, but I’m glad it took so long as I’d never have sat and taken it all in otherwise. And, the sandal… although a small thing that has always stuck in my mind for some reason.


haha, I hope you got the DVD’s eventually? It was a nice narration, esp the child’s sandal falling off. I’ve seen that happen few times and its quite different the way adults react v/s kids.

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