October 18, 2007

Hanoi Haze
Hanoi, Vietnam

San Francisco's sister city: Hanoi.

I've noticed that right around five o'clock in the evening a haze begins to envelope Hanoi. Vehicle headlights illuminate as the daylight begins to wain, creating misty beams of amber, white, or pink from the front of cars, trucks, and motorbikes—apparently there are no enforced regulations here which prohibit colorized lights.

Eventually it reaches the point where I feel like I'm looking at Los Angeles, 20 years from now. Is this a gray cloud of pollution, or something else? If it were cold outside, I'd say it was about to snow.

The phenomenon seems to be city-wide, and is most obvious around places where you can see some distance (like across a lake). Perhaps it's smog caused by the inset of the evening commute home. Perhaps it's smoke from thousands of makeshift sidewalk eateries, lighting fires to cook their foodstuffs for the evening. Perhaps it's just some kind of weird fog that consistently settles in when the afternoon breeze subsides (although no large body of water is nearby).

Whatever it is, I feel like I'm inhaling something I shouldn't. The pollution in this city isn't to a level where it's palatable, but almost. The street noise gets to me long before I reach the point where I'd need to wear a surgical mask cover my nose and mouth (like a large percentage of the motorists and pedestrians here).

I'll be curious to leave the city and see if it's just Hanoi that suffers from hazy vision, or if it's more widespread than this city alone.

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