Joust, thou knave!

It seemeth that knights of contemporary Hanoi have left behind their lance in favor of sundry lengths of pipe. And their steed no longer hath four legs, but wheels of two. What is more, their field hath become a thoroughfare thoroughly paved, with the sun-dappled, grassy arenas of yore forgotten by all but the most hoary head.


Kumquat trees, before Tet


Pick your tree.
Dig up the roots.

Pay your money
to the farmer in boots.

Kumquat trees are potting,
so Tet is coming.


Pluck that branch.
Watch the trees dance

through traffic and lights
on reeling motorbikes.

Kumquat trees are trucking,
so Tet is coming.


The lunar new year
is almost here:

plot some good luck
and plan some cheer.

Kumquat trees are blooming,
so Tet is coming.


Goats and a motorbike to start the year

Goats alive! Apparently motorbike is the conveyance of choice for the modern goatherd.


Dodging goat pellets on a walk during a recent trip to Ninh Binh, we were rewarded with a sighting of the pellet producers. The small herd was being driven by a driver astride two wheels.


Happy new year everyone. May friendly goats greet you at every turn.

It’s Christmas in the city…

From karaoke singers in the streets to snowmen in front of hotels, Hanoi likes to get in the Christmas spirit. An unexpected rush of holiday decorations has sprung up around the city over the past few weeks, and I’m enjoying it. “Another holiday to celebrate? Lights to put up? Gifts to buy and give? Bring it on!” Hanoians seem to say.

There’s a famous shopping street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter named Hang Ma. It sells the decorations of the season. Over moon festival time you could find star and fish lanterns. At the end of October, masks and costumes for Halloween. And, nearing Christmas time, artificial trees, wreaths, Santa suits, and decorations of all kinds sprouted from the shops that line the narrow, motorbike-clogged street.

(click on the photos to view at larger size)

Lights, ornaments, and trees are up all around the city, especially in the atriums of shopping malls, the entryways of apartment buildings, and the lobbies of hotels both grand and grungy. Santa is everywhere on his sleigh, it seems, and schoolchildren here anticipate his visit on Christmas Eve night just as much as in the US. There’s even famous landmarks from America sprinkled into the decorations. It makes me feel right at home.

(click on the photos to view at larger size)

So, all in all, I’m having a great first Christmas in Hanoi. Now I have to go put on my reindeer antler headband and sing some caroling karaoke. Happy holidays to all!

Hoi An details

Suffused with yellow and nostalgia by day, magical by lantern-light at night, Hoi An’s old town pulls the visitor in and makes you want to bike its quiet streets again. Oh, and shop. Here’s a closer look at the town.

Along the Westlake’s Quang An street, moon festival night

Sunset smear a smoggy peach.
Bats bite les moustiques.
Flame trees flowered months ago.
Lakeside lovers flirt.
Hanoi’s skyline lights.
Mid-autumn moon a lotus center.
Lotus leaves dry-curled, a memory of flowers.
Bikers on low plastic stools sip sidewalk tea.
Dogs pant and take their shit.
Suspect Adidas for sale on a blanket.
Whole ducks on spits with sparking coals.
Muffled drums rumble.
Green dragons brood.
Butterflied shrimp fritters in greasy piles.
White-bottomed palms frond themselves.
Green coconuts seek a machete cut, a straw.
Red-robed beards sell offerings.
The dead fish and dog poop day is done;
dusk is queen.