Back in Hanoi, cold, damp , grey clouds, smog, both regretting the impromptu swim in the bay , we walk to the ethnology museum, mooch around for a while. We feel like sleeping for a week. We cut short the cultural tour and head back to the hotel via Hoan Kiem lake and wander along the lake side. I’can’t remember seeing so many film cameras in my life – certainly not since I was 20 or so; nikons, a couple of canon AEs and the odd ricoh. This doesn’t seem like a retro- hipster thing as at least 50% of the shooters are over 40 or older.
We spy a camera shop at the corner of the lake and walk in to look at their second hand gear. Nikon cameras are piled up behind glass cabinets, along with the usual paraphernalia, flashguns, synch leads, random filters and stiff leather ever-ready cases. It’s like being back at your first camera shop: long lost names, long- lusted after chrome and black precision engineered machinery, odd bits of plastic and metal that hinted of pre- internet arcane processes.
I see an old battered M6 way up behind the counter manned by three old guys. I have to at least have a look at it, feel the “vibes” off this body; what has it taken, where did it come from, how did it end up here? It’s in good condition, so I ask the price,
“30 million dong”
No different to the UK. I’m a little shocked, there’s no guarantee, I’m not that hung up on the mystique to risk that much on a camera bought in Hanoi, so back it goes in the locked cabinet behind the three old guys, and we walk back out to the lake side.
Anyway we meet these students who want to practise their english and they ask so many questions with so much enthusiasm that we forget about our lurgy and end up laughing and talking for a good hour or so. They’re all tourism students, 18- 20, living in the same house in Hanoi, all from the countryside, all wanting to not go back there, but missing home, all desperate to learn more, to get a job, to make money and to make it in life. Their enthusiasm and drive is infectious.
We swap emails and exchange photographs then leave for the hotel. I’d like to think they will do really well, I hope so, there is a “wholesomeness” and a a naivety that’s both refreshing and also slightly unnerving in it’s single- mindedness to succeed. Good luck to them.