Mornings....the most glorious part of every day. Each new day brings about a fresh start. As the sun starts painting the sky with shades of golden orange and the morning dew on leaves and flowers starts to wash away, the freshness in air reminds us to take a deep breath and pay our gratitude to this universe for letting us witness the beauty of this day.
We reached Hanoi early morning after a night long train journey from Danang. It was about 6am and the city was still asleep. Except for the railway station where the hustle and bustle of everyday life had begun. We stepped out and before we could start our morning walk to the hotel, the smell of fresh coffee pulled us to a small roadside kiosk. While we sat, the lady poured two really strong shots of coffee with condensed milk. I have never seen as much use of condensed milk as in South East Asia....be it coffee, tea, smoothie, pancakes....you name it! Anyways, we sipped the coffee and boy it did wake us up. And then we embarked our long walk through unknown streets of Hanoi....the sky was still dark but the birds were already awake.
Most fun part about first day in a new city where you don't know the language and all street names are written in the local language is trying to find you way to the destination. And at such times, more often than not, the phone GPS decides not to work. And that's exactly what happened :o) We were annoyed and angry at each other for not saving the hotel address and our attempts to ask the locals went in vain. But the morning freshness made everything seem small. We walked and walked on the empty streets, imagining how the same streets would be once the city wakes up. After wandering for an hour and few attempts, we finally found our hotel. It was 7am by then and our hotel street was full of vegetable vendors, meat vendors, people buying fruits, sipping their morning tea and just waking up. As we checked in and kept our luggage, the hotel staff suggested we go to the lake close by....and off we went!
Fifteen minutes later we were at the lake and we were amazed by the sight. As we walked, we saw locals exercising everywhere around the lake! Old, young, men, women everyone was doing something....some were jogging, some dancing, some playing badminton, some doing Tai Chi, some doing zumba, some practicing western dance and some just sitting in stillness by the lake....it was amazing! The women were carrying their shopping carts and after shopping with their friends they would take a break to just dance!! We both smiled....it was inspiring to see locals of all age groups taking time out for themselves before they get busy with their daily routine. It looked like everyone was celebrating, not some occasion, but their life!!
I have yet to see such a sight in a big city....yes we have seen a handful running or walking their dogs in the morning, but to such a degree - nowhere! In big cities like Houston and New York, mornings are meant to rush, run and be in the fast lane. No time to smell the flowers, to take in the fresh air, to sit and have breakfast. But being here in the city of Hanoi on that fine morning, it made me realize....life is too short to always be in the fast lane. Life is about celebration of everything - and every morning gives us a chance to start afresh and celebrate our presence in this world. And taking some time in the morning for our own self, before our commitments, our schedules and our deadlines is the least we can do to celebrate the gift of our life :o)
Ha Long Bay located in the Quang Ninh Province of Northern Vietnam reminded us of Milford Sound in New Zealand. Hundreds of limestone formations make cruising in the bay even more beautiful. We spent a day in the boat watching the sky, the water, the birds, fishermen and just chilling :) The thing is no day spent in nature is unforgettable. This saying by Jules Renard speaks my heart -
"On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it...."
I wish we took care of these pieces of heaven like we loved our family and our possessions. After all, what would our Mother Earth be like without nature? What would our life be like without flowers, birds, trees, mountains? Nature fills our life with color and beauty. It makes me sad when I see we abuse it without thinking of consequences of our actions. Our Earth is a gift to us, this nature is loaned to us....with the hope that we will cherish it, nurture it and love it like our own while we are here and then hand it over to our children and generations to come so they can enjoy it and learn from it.
This Native American proverb says it all -
"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."