Elsewhere, merchants squat in doorways, selling everything from live roosters to televisions, auto parts, dog meat, jewelry, Communist Party posters-turned-art-objects and soups made from fish or ducks gutted right on the sidewalk. Though it looks as if a tornado has taken the contents of a Wal-Mart and a Whole Foods and deposited them helter-skelter, the system has endured for more than 600 years.
Huu, who was born 90 years ago in the Old Quarter, says he doesn't know if he'll live long enough to take a nostalgic walk through the area on 10-10-10. His birth house was replaced long ago by a shop, anyway. But he's certain the spirit of the place will endure, if not on the new surface, at least at the ancient core.
"Hanoi remains Hanoi," he says. "Many, many places have changed, but the soul is there. You can feel it and see it, in the West Lake, the different monuments, the Red River. The soul is floating."