Working the graveyard shift in Hanoi

By Ngoc Thanh, Phuong Lam   October 6, 2019 | 05:00 pm GMT+7

People do many different jobs after midnight in the Vietnamese capital ranging from parcel delivery to cleaning up after road construction.

At 12:30 a.m. on a weekday in Hanoi, a couple walks out of a convenience store on Hang Bong Street in the Old Quarters. Next doors, three people are eating ice cream and yogurt that they just bought from the store. Hang Bong is one of the most bursting shopping streets of Vietnam’s capital city. But the noise gets turned off at midnight, curfew for the businesses in the city. There are only three convenience stores and a few hotel open around the clock on the street.

At midnight on a weekday a couple walks out of a convenience store on Hang Bong Street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Nearby, three people are eating ice cream and yogurt they had just bought at the store. Hang Bong is one of the capital’s most crowded shopping streets, but at midnight, when it is time for businesses to shut down, it goes quiet. Only three 24/7 convenience stores and a few hotels remain open afterward.

About 200 meters from the convenience store, Quoc Huy, a hotel receptionist is at his desk waiting for two Filipino arriving guests. The service car has picked them up at Noi Bai airport and is heading back to the hotel. Huy will help them check-in at 3 a.m., their estimated arrival time. Guests arriving at 2 or 3 a.m. in Hanoi hotels are pretty common in October as this is the peak time for tourists.

Some 200 meters from the convenience store, Quoc Huy, a hotel receptionist is at his desk waiting for two Filipino guests. The hotel car has picked them up at the airport and is headed back. Huy will help them check in at around 3 a.m. Guests arriving at 2 or 3 a.m. is pretty common in October, the peak tourist season.

"It’s like we don’t want our guests if we close at midnight," the 24-year-old said. Working along with Huy are three other receptionists of similar age.

The bar where Masayoshi Kimoto works still takes order from customers at 1 in the morning. The 32-year-old Japanese man is a manager/bartender/chef of a Japanese restaurant on Kim Ma Street. The restaurant offers all sorts of services tailored for his compatriot’s taste, including massage, sauna room, manga reading room, a bar, a karaoke lounge, and rooms filled with single beds in case his comers fancy a nap.Kimoto said this all-in-one service is on the rise in Japan, but it’s still rare in Hanoi. Places like his are suitable for single people who like to keep their night time active. But the city’s curfew at midnight poses challenges to his business.Kimoto has lived in Vietnam for more than three years. He starts working at 10 am and usually ends at 2 am after the last customer pays their bills. There are seven fulltime Japanese staff and a few Vietnamese partimers most of whom are young people with a fondness of improving their Japanese language skills.

The bar where Masayoshi Kimoto works continues to take orders from customers at 1 in the morning. The 32-year-old Japanese man is the manager, bartender and chef of a Japanese restaurant on Kim Ma Street. The place offers all sorts of services his compatriots are used to back home, like massage, sauna, a manga reading room, a karaoke lounge, and rooms with single beds in case they fancy a nap.

Kimoto said this kind of place is becoming popular in Japan but still rare in Hanoi. Places like these are good for single people with a fondness for nightlife. But the city’s midnight curfew is a challenge to his business.

Kimoto has lived in Vietnam for more than three years. He starts working at 10 a.m. and usually ends at around 2 a.m. when the last customer pays their bill.

Not too far from Kimoto’s bar, the night hasn’t ended for the fast delivery men who are loading the truck with newspapers at the back of a printer on Tran Quang Khai Street. Upon receiving all packages, the trucks head to different provinces in the North.Tuan, one of the deliverers, has grown accustomed to this job for the last six years.

Not too far from Kimoto’s bar, some delivery men are loading trucks with newspapers at the back of a printing press on Tran Quang Khai Street. After they are loaded, the trucks leave for various places in the north.

Tuan, one of the men, has grown accustomed to this job over the last six years. "We deliver anything the company tells us at any hour," he said.

After a straight 24 hours of work, he gets a day off before he returns for another shift at 3 a.m.

At roughly the same time, Nguyen Thai Phuong (second from the right) is getting ready to board another flight to Da Lat at Noi Bai airport. The stewardess has to get up at 2 a.m., puts her make-up on, attends a meeting, and reviews what she has learnt about security and medical safety for the next flight she’s working on.More than half of Phuong’s flying time is after midnight. She drinks coffee to stay awake.

At roughly the same time Nguyen Thai Phuong (2nd, R) is getting ready to board a flight from Hanoi to Da Lat. The flight attendant has to get up at 2 a.m., put on make-up, attend a meeting, and review security and medical safety information before the flight.

More than half of Phuong’s flying hours are after midnight, and she depends on coffee to stay awake. Phuong, who has been a steward for four years, said: "On international flights, many foreign passengers suffer from disruption of their circadian rhythms, and flight attendants have to remain heedful of that. We check the cabin every 15 minutes and the toilets every 30 minutes to see if anyone needs special help."

She gets a 45-minute break between flights. Her circadian rhythms and daily routines have been disturbed due to the late night flights. She gets home from work when everybody else in her family is up for a morning run, and goes to sleep when they leave for work.

Duc, 43 (right), a construction worker and his colleague are working at a site on Dai Co Viet Street at 2 a.m.Their job is essentially to clean up the mess after a construction site has finished, including polishing the road, backfilling the holes on the ground, and reinstalling the electric wires. People like Duc have to work when everybody else is not at the site.Duc starts working at 11:30 p.m., when his wife and children are sleeping sound in the house in Van Dien in the outskirts of Hanoi.When the shift ends at 5:00 am, Duc and his fellow construction workers come home to have breakfast and immediately go to another digging and cleaning gigs at another construction site.

Duc, 43 (R), and his colleague work at a construction site on Dai Co Viet Street at 2 a.m.

Their job is essentially to clean up after construction work is finished, including filling up holes and reinstalling electric wires. People like Duc have to work when everybody else has left the site.

He starts working at 11:30 p.m. when his wife and children are sleeping at home on the city’s outskirts.

When his shift ends at 5:00 a.m., Duc and his fellow workers return home for breakfast and immediately leave for their next construction site.

Ha puts her trash trailer every day from 5 p.m. to collect trash on several streets in Hai Ba Trung District. The 35-year-old environmental worker works until midnight when the city garbage truck passes her route, she follows and dumps the collected trash on their container. When trash from the truck leaks on the street, she collects it and puts it in the public bins.Environmental workers like Ha don’t question the late night requirement of their work. Only at that time, the citizens will not feel bothered.When work finishes at 3 a.m., Ha returns to her small home on Linh Nam Street, 8 km away. She also takes on a part-time position at a sewing factory, fetching an additional one million dong ($43) that helps her get by.

Ha, 35, pushes her trailer every day from 5 p.m. to collect trash on several streets in Hai Ba Trung District. The garbage truck comes at midnight and she dumps her trash in it. She also follows it to pick up any trash that may drop on the street. Sanitation workers like Ha do not question their late night working hours, realizing only at that time "the public will not feel bothered."

When her work finishes at 3 a.m., she returns to her small house eight kilometers away. She also works part-time in a sewing factory.

Nguyen Van Bien, 30, just drops a passenger off on Kim Ma Street. His 12-hour shift starts from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning. He enjoys working late at night because the streets are not congested. He usually gets a lot of customers from midnight till morning time, mostly those who are coming home from downtown. The 24/7 convenience store is his go-to whenever hunger pangs visit.

Nguyen Van Bien, 30, drops a passenger off on Kim Ma Street. His 12-hour shift runs from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. He enjoys working late at night because the streets are not congested. He usually gets a lot of passengers between midnight and dawn, mostly in downtown. The 24/7 convenience stores are his go-to place if he feels hungry.

Nguyen Ba Su (left), a technical worker checks the winch hook used to lift the beams at a suspended bridge construction in Cau Giay District at 1 a.m. Construction team works overnight, when traffic participation is the lowest.

Nguyen Ba Su (L), a technician, checks a winch hook used to lift beams at a bridge construction site in Cau Giay District at 1 a.m. Construction teams work overnight when traffic is thinnest.

Su said: "It’s morning by the time we finish work. When we get home, people are out for their morning exercise."

 
 
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