Hanoi – now available with pics!

Well its been a pretty good day so far. Got up this morning pretty early (i thought…) at about 8 as i could hear people having breakfast. Got speaking to a french woman who i’d seen around the hotel the day before. Turns out she’s a travel writer, been here a fair while, and she told me a few things, although i obviously forgot to ask her anything of the loads of things i’d been wondering about…

The first thing she told me was we were definately pretty late for breakfast, the Vietnamese get up about 6am normally, so we were definately catching the tail-end. She also told me most Vietnamese have a siesta in the middle of the day, something i’ve kinda started doing naturally anyway, although the shops dont close or anything, theres money to be made! But i suppose the most useful thing she showed me was her website (www.vietnam-vagabondages.com – in french but google translate works well on it), where she had pics of a recent trip into the mountainous areas in north Vietnam. A lot of the pics just showed huge muddy cuttings that look like a total nightmare to ride, so i’ve had to shelve the idea of a solo excursion  out there for the moment.

I wrote myself a list of things to do last night, so i wouldnt just end up wandering round again, so after breakfast i got on with doing them. First up was a new mobile.

It was pretty quiet when i first went out. This is the big street next to (the alleyway for want of a better word) where the hotel is situated. But pretty soon…

It was like this. This is much more typical. Note the mopeds going every which way with no seeming order at all. Theres a nominal drive on the right type system, but no-one sticks to it, and if a jam starts forming, they take to the pavement with no hesitation. But i haven’t seen a single accident of any kind. If you want to cross the road you just look for a slight thinning in the traffic and wander out, people just go round you. Its genius.

Anyway, picked up my new mobile. The staff in the shop spoke absolutely no english at all, but since i knew what model i wanted, i just showed it to them written down and they got it out (wahey etc.). This is something i’ve noticed too. Although in the guidebooks it says that its dual currency, in practice you pay for everything in dong. At the phone shop (desperate to use up some dollars), i indicated that i wanted to pay that way, and they were fine about it, but they had to calculate it all (dong prices were displayed), and they gave me my change in dong. I brought shitloads of dollars with me, hmmm.

That out of the way, i walked down to Hoan Kiem Lake to visit the Ngoc Son Temple –

You can see it was still pretty muggy at this time of the morning. This is the view across the lake to the red lacquer bridge to the temple, which is on a little island.

The entrance to the bridge. The stone obelisk thing you can see in the background had a bride and groom having their photo taken with it as the backdrop. The groom noticed me looking, and when he saw i was smiling he gave me a massive grin. Also they have a bizarre entry system for attractions here. They have a ticket booth (usually semi-hidden), and then further on (in this case on the far side of the bridge), a ticket collector. So all the tourists walk past the booth, get turned back at the entrance, and then have to go back and find the ticket booth. Odd.

This is the actual temple. I didnt take pics of the bizarre selection of curiousities inside the main temple (sitting statues everywhere, full sized wooden horse on wheels, loads of plaques) since people were praying and taking it quite seriously, and no-one was taking pics.

So heres a pic of the giant preserved turtle from the lake they had next door…

The temple was nice, but it was also just good to be able to have a sit and get 5 minutes to chill out without people trying to flog stuff to you.

You can still just look across the lake and see the madness taking place though. I’ve left this one full size so you can actually see the crazy.

After i left the temple, i headed for the Vietnam History Museum, down the side of the lake (past loads more newlyweds getting their pics taken), and through the french quarter (laid out sensibly in the grid pattern with wide streets, and lacking in character really). The museum was interesting, none of the the filthy interactive display nonsense you seem to get in western museums these days, just cabinets full of stuff with plenty of info in english. I could have taken loads of photos in here, but you werent supposed to take pics, so i just got a couple of the courtyard outside where they had a load of statues and things.

Now i’ve headed back, only slightly waylaid by a group of grinning kids all wearing little bike helmets who insisted on dancing around me in a circle, had a bit of a play with my new phone, and i’m going to find some food!

Overall, a pretty good day. Tomorrow i’m going to move the backpackers hostel, and see about booking a trip to Sapa. Hanoi is great, but i’m not sure its got enough to occupy me for the next couple of weeks, and i’m not a city person at heart. I want to see the country!


~ by zendog888 on 24/10/2010.

One Response to “Hanoi – now available with pics!”

  1. Loving the read mate. Envious as hell.

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