Yesterday was Vietnam’s National Day, celebrating that warm bright afternoon (I imagine) in 1945 when Ho Chi Minh spoke in Ba Dinh Square and declared Vietnam’s independence from the French colonies and its opposition to Japanese occupation. Though he could have just as well asked, “Who rocks the party like I rock the party?” if the crowds and antics on the streets of the capital yesterday evening were any indication. Hanoi is hardly ever confused with being a quiet city, and I like a good crowd as much as the next guy, but it kind of got a bit out of hand.
I took a brief walk around Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of the Old Quarter to take some photographs in the late afternoon. The evening fireworks were being readied. Stages were being built for martial arts demonstrations and other performances. Teenagers sat around the water, waiting. Some had their portraits drawn. Others took cell phone shots of all the flower displays. And every single family in the capital decided it would be nice to ride their motorbike around the lake at the same time.
Obviously. So traffic hit critical mass pretty early on. On my drive home later that night I had to take about four detours before I could find a passable road. And even then I was inching for space all the way up to the driveway of my parking lot. It was fun. I like that life is lived outside here, and that these celebrations just kind of amplify that general mood. Sometimes all the way up to 11.