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A unique trait of Hanoi

2010-03-25 (GMT + 7)

Unarguably, lots of changes can be seen almost everywhere in Hanoi, particularly in the center of town. More buildings are added to the city’s skyline. More upscale fashion stores, restaurants and hotels line the narrow roads in and around the Old Quarter. More fashion-savvy young people roam the tree-lined streets.

Still, the capital city has some special traits that seem to be untouched by time despite all sorts of social change and that can hardly be found anywhere else in the country. And one of these is the popular business of vending tea, coffee or soft drinks on the sidewalk.
This kind of business can be seen in other parts of the nation like Ho Chi Minh city City. But what makes tea and coffee vending in Hanoi different from the rest of the country are modest-sized tables and stools. Young people who ride both low-priced and big-ticket motorcycles are willing to sit on a small stool made from either worn-out foam sheets or plastics and have their cups of tea, coffee or soft drink on a so-called table made from a foam box.
Strangers to Hanoi might find it embarrassing and even awkward to drop by such a petty tea and coffee serving stall, let alone joining other Hanoi customers to have a round of drinks.
It is really a nice experience to have a cup of tea, though. While drinking iced tea on the sidewalk near the Sofitel Metropole Hotel and the landmark Opera House in the heart of Hanoi on a cool night, a young Hanoian says she likes it this way simply because she enjoys serenity and peace until late at night when there is little or no vehicular traffic on the narrow, tree-lined road, and when the noise caused by honking motorcycles and cars dies down.
The streets are always hustling and bustling from dawn to dusk. However, late in the evening, many of them become quiet with the straight lines of trees on the sidewalks seemingly embracing each other to form green arches.
In the eyes of many Hanoians, the city is very beautiful not because of its new structures and affluence but the soul of Hanoi. What is physical might have been lost in the development process but the long-established traditions and habits like tea and coffee drinking on the sidewalks in town make the city unique and distinct.


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