The best way to describe what it’s like in Hanoi is to compare it to a science fiction world. It’s like the street level ghetto, the bottom level of the space station, where you would go to find the black market vendor in a video game. It’s where the real people live, while the elite sit high above in their sky scrappers or in posh quarters back on earth. It’s a sensory overload of bright lights, advertisements, and people trying to sell you their goods or services. It makes you wonder if you really are in a scifi world.
An ever present object in this surreal world is Blue Stool. Blue Stool is the Vietnamese cousin to “Chair” from the Lovely Listing days. Lovely Listing was a hilarious website that featured odd findings in real estate listings. Chair was the white plastic chair that managed to creep into many of the photos in these listings. I spent many hours laughing at some of the ridiculous photos on this site, whether it was a very odd house, a creepy guy peering in the window, or someone’s vacation photos that ended up in the MLS system. Lovely Listing was good for a laugh and gave Chair its’ 15 minutes of internet fame.
Blue stools are seriously everywhere here. It’s hard to take a photo in the Old Quarter or French Quarter with out getting at least part of a blue stool in the shot. Blue stool has relatives in other colors, but blue is definitely the dominant gene in it’s family. They are surprisingly comfortable too. Our first night in Hanoi we happened upon “beer corner”, a bustling intersection in the Old Quarter, just a few blocks from our Airbnb. (I say bustling intersection but in perspective, every intersection here is bustling.) We took a sidewalk seat on a blue stool and had a beer while cars and scooters came within centimeters of our matching blue plastic table. It’s quite a place to watch the city go by. Closer to home we shared a bowl of pho, sitting on blue stools of course.
I’ll let Blue Stool tell some it’s story here in photos:
Where ever you go there are blue stools. On the weekends it can be hard to find an open seat at some places. They are usually filled with smiling groups of friends or families, happily eating some delicious meal or having drinks.
Right near beer corner is a narrow street lined with restaurants. Blue Stools with plastic tables spill out into the street leaving a narrow walking space. We found ourselves there one Monday evening at one of the restaurants that didn’t have blue stools but had folding wooden chairs and tables instead, It stood out among all the colorful plastic. There was a guy from Michigan we were talking to and a couple from Pennsylvanian that joined us at our table for a drink.
We were having a nice time when there was a commotion at one end of the street. The next thing we knew the staff was folding up our tables and chairs, other restaurants were scrambling to stack their plastic seating arrangements and everyone was squished into the small interior space of the sidewalk cafes. A group of police officers were walking down the road followed by a police truck. Apparently this street is only a walking street on the weekends, when the whole area shuts down traffic for the Night Market.
Once the truck went by, furniture, people, and staff spilled back into the street. By the time we were finished our beers, the wave of disappearing sidewalk tables and chairs hit again. When the police truck went by for the second time in an hour, the two officers in the truck were laughing. This must be their weekday fun.
Walking around in this scifi world can be dangerous. There is a constant crowed of scooters, cars, pedestrians, and bicyclist whizzing around you in the street. The sidewalks are too crowded with seating and goods to walk down and on the rare occasion when there is room to stand on a sidewalk, there’s going to be a procession of honking scooters taking advantage of that open space too. You also have to be careful where you step. Howard found a hole, just big enough for his foot to fit in. His foot dropped down two feet, but he didn’t get hurt or even miss a step. Neither of us wanted to know what exactly was in that hole, but his leg was wet. Someone should put something over that hole so no one else steps in it… a Blue Stool would be perfect.