Tag Archives: lighters

Shopping Mission — Hanoi

7 Jun

Bicycle covered in flowers parked in side street, Hanoi, Vietnam

Flowers by bike: Hanoi, Vietnam

It was S’s (the nine-year-old’s father’s) last day with us today. And we spent it in Hanoi. The bulk of it, in fact… drum roll… shopping for a… cymbal clash… pencil sharpener.

Now, when it comes to travel, I’m a great believer in the power of mooching. Sort of ambling around. Not doing very much. Gawping a little. Making friends with people you meet. Slowing way, way down. And seeing life around you as it is lived, not as it is composed for a tourist postcard.

But it’s good to have a mission. And a mundane mission, such as a quest for a pencil sharpener, a good kindergarten table spring roll joint, the perfect souvenir lighter for your pocket pyromaniac or all of the above, makes for a better walking tour of the city than any number of tour guides could provide. It brings you straight up against how alien life is, in its everyday mundanity, and takes you on a lazy tour of a great city’s back alleys and byways.

Because, believe you me, buying a pencil sharpener is a hell of a lot harder and infinitely more enlightening than scoring opium, silk dressing gowns or lacquer vases. And, yes, since you ask, I am regretting allowing Z his choice of lighter. Continue reading