So it's Christmas. Here's some festive shots which have nought to do with Christmas. The shapes and colours shout "Christmas!" at me but we're a million miles from trees, pudding and Santa here in Hanoi. Don't get me wrong, there is that twisted culture commercial Christmas scene going on, shops wrapped in tinsel, Santa hats being sold off bicycles, Abba's 'Happy New Year' ghetto-blasting out of shops, inflated Santas, dancing Santas...it's not quite as twisted as Colonel Sanders dressed as Santa Claus and everyone eating KFC for Christmas dinner a la Japan but the silly season in Vietnam is pretty silly.
What's all the red and green? Not pressies for under the tree but pounded, dyed, sweet rice cakes filled with yellow bean mix. Popularly bought for ceremonial occasions, they are given to the host of the party to be wolfed down with a cup or twenty of green tea. The little boxes wrapped in cellophane above are filled with tea. They are also offered to ancestors on altars at home and in pagodas. Local tourists to Hanoi buy dozens of the individually boxed flat green numbers below as souvenirs.
Just out of the north end of the old quarter, there is a whole street of shops off-loading these coloured ricey slabs. And, let me tell you, in my stomach after consumption, there was a feeling that not one brick had been laid but that the foundations for a whole house were weighing me down. Heavy stuff....eat only one is my recommendation.
The large prod of incense was being used to expertly seal the sticky bricks in plastic. With me poking my nose around to get an angle on the proceedings, I was half expecting boss-lady-cum-chief-sealer to either jab me in the eye or set my undies on fire and send me on my way.
I took my leave, whacking 14,000VND (USD88c, AUD$1.20) in her hand for seven cakes and thus avoided the red-hot poker treatment.
53 Hang Than St