The Red River, Hanoi
The Red River, even in the light haze of early morning, is clearly visible from a window high above central Hanoi. Similar to the pattern of life in much of Vietnam, the people here are awake and on the move at this early predawn hour. This is a routine shaped by the climate in an attempt to escape the suffocating high heat and humidity of mid day and early afternoon.
My hotel is the Chalcedony on Nguyen Truong To. Upon return to Hanoi in a few years, this will be my preference for accommodations while in the city. For the few extra U.S. dollars it is well worth the overnight escape from the crush of people and the chaos of the surrounding heat of the city during the height of the tourist season. And at 4:30 this morning I heard a rooster (I am on the fifth floor) as clearly as if I were waking up in Ohio’s midwest surrounded by cornfields and cattle farms!
We will leave at 7:30 a.m.for an overnight excursion on Halong Bay in the Quang Ninh Province. Though to experience its natural beauty it will require yet another long bus ride. This time the trip will cover only 170 kilometers as we head to the northeast and perhaps a relief from the heat of Hanoi.
The temperature in Hanoi is – as everyone promised – much hotter and more humid than Saigon 1138 kilometers to the south!
From the window, I watch the Red River as it moves steadily toward the delta. It is unassuming as its headwaters flow alongside the heavily populated downtown area of this capital city. On another summer’s day, though, more than forty years ago during the height of the war years, the river rose to unexpected and unprecedented heights. The date was August 1, 1971. Torrential rains overwhelmed the dike systems and the onslaught of the rushing water surprised and then consumed more than 100,000 inhabitants of Hanoi.
Because of the timing of the flood during the war years, little information regarding the aftermath was recorded of this disaster. What is known, however, is the life-giving river that had provided water for irrigation of valuable crops and arenas for fisheries and water for daily living had gone mad and in its madness had destroyed life and imposed unprecedented severe and long-lasting hardships on the survivors.
Floods continue to disrupt life along the Red River (notable is the flood of 1984). The people, though, exhibit a resilience and a willingness to defend their place along the river. The people of Hanoi who live alongside the heavily populated downtown area of this capital city of Hanoi, Vietnam give the land its character and enhance its natural beauty.