It’s summer time, and though the beach is technically 200 kilometres away, we do have our own shores right here in the city limits. No, I’m not talking about West Lake — that’s far too easy, and way too toxic. I mean the muddy shores of the Red River.
These ‘beaches’ aren’t easy to find. Julie and I set off first for a stretch of sand behind the Au Co Flower Market. There’s a dirt road that runs along the river basin, and a steep slope branches down to a bamboo bridge into farmland. This is a fun excursion; fields of basil, forests of banana trees, and friendly farmers abound.
We may have gotten lost in the mud, we may not have found more than a foot of sand at the water’s edge, and we may have to take Julie’s bike to the shop now — but it was a nice escape from the urban sprawl.
Unsatisfied, we took a break to regroup over sandwiches. Maybe we were in the wrong stretch of river. We decided to hoof it down to the Vinh Thuy Bridge, where the water is wide and the shoreline is less crowded with vegetation.
This drive was less taxing — cross to the north side of the river, hit the dyke road, and then head underneath the bridge to the flat grassy shore. A lovely spot for a picnic, and if you close your eyes, you can pretend the sound of traffic going by on the bridge is actually the ocean.
Back in Tay Ho, there was one more spot we had been resisting, mostly because it cost money (VND50,000 per person), and it seemed too easy. But after all that sweating and cursing and pushing our bike through the mud, we gave in.
Bai Da Song Hong is a flower garden on the banks of the river, at the end of Au Co Alley 264. A smart business investment, they’ve monopolised a nice stretch of shoreline, throwing in flowers, wide green space, and a couple of floating docks. It’s a good spot for a drunk Saturday (or a hungover Sunday), and it would be peaceful, if it wasn’t for the steady beat of Vina-house they insist on blasting.
Of course, the river is long, and there are lots of ‘beaches’ hiding out there. The sand is technically mud and you can’t see a foot into the murky water. But it’s a cleaner swim than the lakes provide, and a lovely way to cool down when you’ve overdosed on chlorine and don’t have time to leave the city.