Our return to Hanoi was without significant incident. We shared a sleeping berth with two tour guides who were in charge of a party of 28 French tourists.
One of the guides was a Vietnamese man the other a French woman who gave me the impression that she was too good to be doing something like this. She was clearly put out by the fact that there was a cyclone bearing down on Vietnam which was expected to be very damaging when it made landfall. We found out later that the cyclone had already caused massive devastation in the Philippines where thousands are feared dead.
The French guide was concerned because the ongoing journey south by train had been postponed because of the cyclone and all excursions out of Hanoi that were vaguely in a southerly or easterly direction had been cancelled. Her tour company had told her that Hanoi Hotels were full to overflowing because no one could get out. She was clearly put out by the fact that she has 28 tourists nowhere to take them and nothing to keep them occupied. I think she thought she deserved better.Everyone has their problems, those were hers. Ours were that we were sharing a carriage with a rather snooty French woman who it became clear as the night went on, snored on an industrial scale. It was not a good night.
After our arrival the next morning we went for a walk around the old quarter to stretch our legs. It all felt a bit flat after the colour of SaPa. After about an hour we heard some drumming and went to see what was going on.
It turned out to be the opening of a new, high end, hairdressing salon. This, like everything else in Hanoi, took place on the street. There were tables and chairs, food and wine, announcements and general hubbub. Then a rather cool looking singer took the stage and belted out a couple of pop songs. We thought he must be famous because the film cameras were there , there were 3 or 4 paparazzi and all the young women were shouting, dancing and taking pictures of him. This was followed by further announcements and a boy and girl aged about 9 years old doing a flamenco dance. It was more than a bit bizarre but it was well received. The grand finale was of course the dancing dragons which to be honest went on a bit.
During all this a man in the crowd and I struck up conversation. It turns out that the young man opening the new salon has a string of them and has just won the best hairdresser competition. “He is”, the man told me, “the best hairdresser in the world”. I acted suitably impressed. “Would I like to meet him” the man asked me. Well of course I said yes. I was expecting a slightly awkward process where this man who was after all just a member of the watching crowd tried and failed to get the attention of the ‘best hairdresser in the world’
I was wrong. The man just raised his hand a little and nodded to the hairdresser. The hairdresser came across immediately, was introduced to me by the man. Well I must say he was a most interesting and gracious hairdresser. While we were talking I decided that the man who introduced us must be his manager, it was, I thought, the only way that he would have been able to get his attention so quickly. We finished our conversation and shook hands and I turned back to to the ‘Manager’ who now had the biggest smile on his face looked like he would burst with pride. Ah I thought, I know that smile; it’s his Dad.