My first impression of Hanoi, on Thursday evening, was of narrow streets and pavements full of motorcycles in a city where, as our tour leader remarked, zebra crossings are regarded as purely decorative. A walk through the Old Town on Friday afternoon was little better, except that I had received the wise advice to cross the road slowly and deliberately and to believe that the motorbikes do not want to hurt me. Then on Saturday morning we took the bus to the coast for an overnight cruise in Halong Bay, returning to Hanoi on Sunday afternoon.
Researching mass times on the internet I found I had a choice between 18:00 at St Joseph’s Cathedral in the Old Town or 19:00 at Cua Bac church, much closer to the hotel. I chose the latter, and discovered a procession through the church, with a portable shrine supporting a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, singing the Lourdes processional hymn. The verse were in Vietnamese, but I could join in the chorus, in Latin: “Ave, ave, ave Maria” x2. After the procession, a woman spoke for a long time. I could not understand a word but she sounded joyful. Then the Mass began, with full participation from the large congregation and choir, and very good reading which was a pleasure to listen to. The gospel and sermon were about Zaccheus, I managed to pick up that much. Very glad I had come here.
On the way back, a small restaurant attracted me. Oc Di Tu, 144C Pho Quan Thanh is a seafood restaurant, with some seating on the pavement, more comfortable chairs and tables inside, and the barbecue between the two. The menu was in Vietnamese, but one of the staff asked in English if I would like her to suggest something. Her recommendation, clams with coconut, came with an excellent sauce, and was just what I wanted for a leisurely meal.
All in all, a very pleasant Sunday evening. In spite of the motorbikes, I am warming to Hanoi.