It is no exaggeration to say that I can spend all morning shopping here in Hanoi. Pause a moment while I wait for friends and family to process what I just said. Karen shopping? It will seem unlikely I know but ….
I haven’t yet found a shop that sells everything that I want for a meal so I end up going from shop to shop buying meat here, vegetables there, condiments from a third and bread from – well, the bakery of course! Things aren’t so different here.
Or at least that’s what happened before the fabulous Chi took over the running of our household. Now, at least some of the traipsing around can be alleviated by telling her in advance what I need and waiting for her to arrive for work, happy, smiling and bearing gifts! Well, fruit, veg and/or meat to be accurate but it feels like a gift because the quality and price are far superior to anything that I can manage to buy and I’ve had to make so little effort myself. When I complimented her yesterday on the quality of the Dragon Fruit she’d bought me she replied, with a totally straight face: “I am a Vietnamese woman. I know how to shop”. Well quite a few of my friends know how to shop Chi but trust me, they couldn’t buy fruit at the absolute peak of perfection quite like you do!
In the UK I would often trek around one of the big supermarkets, aisle after aisle searching for a product that eluded me only to ask an assistant who pointed to the very shelf where I was standing (who does decide where all those products go by the way?). Out here my inability to find items is greatly simplified by the clever Vietnamese grouping all their shops by item, especially in the Old Quarter. Therefore if you need paper you simply go to Paper Street, if you want bamboo furniture head over to Bamboo Corner. However, even this cunning strategy falls down, from my perspective, when it comes to two particular items: nappy sacks and tea towels. I absolutely can’t find them anywhere but I love the idea of Nappy Sack Street so am not going to give up. Without wishing to further worry my family with talk of all things baby related I was thrilled to find, after only an hour’s searching, Paddling Pool Lane. The dog (nappy sacks are the perfect receptacle for taking out on dog walks) is in danger of over-heating out here and absolutely refuses to go near water unless it’s a muddy puddle or Westlake where the only steps in and out are about a kilometre from the house and it’s too hot to walk there. Hence the need for a paddling pool! Tea towels? I’ve no doubt I’ll find them when I least expect to and no longer want them. Until then, I’ll make do with the one that I packed (accidentally I admit!) and await my furniture shipment from the UK.