Monday, 15 November 2010

The island

Our new house is on an island in Truc Bach lake.

To get there from mainland Hanoi, you can cross one of two bridges.

As you can see, if you had a good run at it, you could also just jump across.

(This might not be what you had in your mind when I said we lived on an island.)

The surrounds of Truc Bach lake are some of the most beautiful parts of Hanoi, with trees shading peaceful lakeside cafes.

Up close you can see, unfortunately, that it’s also the most polluted lake in the city.

You get the feeling that soon you won’t even need the bridges to get to our island: you’ll just be able to walk across the lake.

Incidentally, it’s also the lake where John McCain’s plane landed after he was shot down during the Vietnam War. How’s that for a bit of history for you, eh?

Even though it’s barely an actual island (maybe more what the French sweetly call a presqu’île), it really does feel different to and separate from the surrounding city. Because despite the dead fish, and the fact it reminds you of John McCain, it’s such a lovely neighbourhood; a little island of – dare I say it? – tranquility only ten minutes away from the city centre.

There aren’t really proper shops on the island, but every street has a corner store, selling everything you need for Vietnamese cooking (oil and fish sauce).

That photo reminds me of a conversation between two older women, Australian tourists, which Nathan and I overheard. They didn’t like Hanoi one bit. “They live their whole lives on the footpath!”, one said. “Yes, and the only reason they go indoors is to watch TV!”, the other added.

The island’s big business is restaurants serving pho cuon, a fresh roll with a rice noodle wrapping. I took these photos after lunch, but usually these joints are packed.

Half the island seems to have a stake in these places, with food being prepared, or chopsticks being washed, or tables being stored, at many of the surrounding houses, or heavens above, on the footpath

There is also a pagoda. Every morning we can hear the gong sounding, usually at the same time as the nearby school beats their drum to signal the start of class.

The island's tranquility is only relative, of course. As with everywhere else in Hanoi, there’s also a lot of construction work going on. Our corner of the island is currently spared, but I don’t kid myself that this will last.

For now, the weather is a ceaseless stretch of perfect Autumn days, we live on an island, and I have never seen so many colours.


  1. According to wikipedia, when the locals shot Mr McCain out of the sky and into our lake, they helped him out and totally saved him from drowning!

    OK admittedly that was mostly so they could beat him up, but to be fair he was bombing their power station, so.

  2. Wow. I can see you are enjoying your domestic life.
    I didn't know you moved to Truc Bach, of all places!

  3. Hey Jonathan! Yes, we're moving up in the world. Soon we'll be in Tay Ho, where I can wear leisure-wear all day long while hanging out with the other Ladies Who Lunch.

    And thanks Wendy!

  4. So pleasing are the colours in the purple door picture.

  5. My goodness! Hanoi looks so quaint and charming... I must visit immediately!

    Btw, there's some dong to be made renting out motorbike parking space around Tet. Cock fighting abounds in Truc Bach. Tabs, I'm sure you're already onto this one.

  6. So glad you're updating this again... it brings a "LOL" to my workday.

    ps. Nathan told me to use the comments. He is an A*hole. I don't know how you put up with him Tabitha.

  7. The Truc' Bach. neighborhood is a nice and cozy place, near Thanh Nien street too, a personal favorite of mine. I guess we're just across the "lake" from each other :) Great choice.
    The West Lake Review


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