Friday, 26 August 2011

Hectic Hanoi!

Oh, crazy, mad, insane, frenetic, mind-boggling Hanoi!  I think I was in shock when we first arrived from lad-back Laos.  I was warned by several people that Hanoi traffic is insane, but I did not fully grasp this concept.  The ride from the airport to our most excellent hotel was my first taste of the madness.  The sheer number of scooters on the road is overwhelming.  I honestly do not understand how there aren't more accidents... in fact, I don't think we saw a single one the entire time in the city.  And in the old quarter where we stayed, the sidewalks aren't actually for walking.  They are for parking scooters, setting up shop, seating for makeshift restaurants and bars.... which forces all the pedestrians to walk in the road.  Madness!  Finally, the horns.  There is a constant symphony of car, scooter and bus horns at all times of the day and night.  From what I can tell, a honk means "get out of my way, I'm coming through" and is used quite liberally.  A red light is merely a suggestion to stop, most vehicles simply go right through, leaning on the horn.  Again, how does this city function???

A typical road scene in the old quarter: cars, bicycles, scooters and pedestrians all sharing the same narrow roads.

Yes, children, you'd better run when you cross the street!

Ok, enough about the traffic!

View of the city from our hotel room... all the way on the 7th floor (and no elevator!)

Our first full day in Hanoi, we wandered the city by foot.  Walked over to one of the small lakes scattered around the city, and found a neat temple to explore.

Tree growing out of a pile of rocks at the temple.

Requisite picture of me in pretty scenery.

Greg found a barber on the street, charging $2.50 for a haircut, so he indulged.  All the Vietnamese people walking past thought this was quite an amusing sight.

We got up bright and early one morning to visit Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum.  It's open for only a few hours each day, and closes at 11am.  We arrived at about 9:30 to a giant line-up, but it moved quite quickly.  We had to pass through numerous security checkpoints, and drop off our camera as they not allowed inside.  When we finally got to the mausoleum, we joined the slow procession of people silently walking inside.  They were soldiers dressed entirely in white, with large rifles with bayonets stationed all around and throughout the building.  Entering the main chamber, the first thing we noticed was the cold blast of air.  The room was dimly lit, but the coffin was brightly illuminated.  Ho Chi Minh himself looked very peaceful, lying on a pillow and under a blanket, beard and hair neatly combed.  On the wall behind him engraved in red on two large panels were a giant red star and a large hammer and sickle.  The atmosphere in the room was very solemn and reverential.

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum

We also visited the Temple of Knowledge, which is an ancient university, founded in 1040 and dedicated to Confucius.  The grounds were very peaceful, and the place looked like a park with a few temples scattered throughout.  It was a great respite from the craziness of the city!

Temple of Knowledge

Ha Noi draught beer is hugely popular in Hanoi.  It's typically served by the glass to patrons sitting on these tiny plastic chairs on the sidewalk.  We decided to partake in this experience, and found a small bar on the sidewalk serving the beer.  Two Vietnamese men sitting at the table beside us started talking to us, and insisted on buying us beer for no reason at all!  It was very nice of them.  It was very difficult turning them down as they were quite insistent!  So where we intended to stop only for one, Greg ended up having 3 while I had 2.  The beer itself is very light tasting, and refreshing on a hot day (but still does not compare to Beer Lao!)

Enjoying cold beer on the sidewalk.  Note the mini tables and chairs!

Good ol' communist artwork.

Through our wonderful hotel (thanks for the recommendation, Philip!), we booked a 2 night stay in Ha Long bay.... stay tuned for details of our adventures there!

3 comments:

  1. Ok so maybe I'm missing something here -but how is Ho Chih Minh being preserved? And wasn't seeing him in his casket extremely creepy? I find this whole thing very bizarre.

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  2. Hi Freya and Lisa! Yeah, so I don't actually know how he's being preserved, but I do know that he's shipped off to Russia for 3 months a year for maintenance. Although it's rumoured that Madame Tussaud's has the contract.... And yes, it is just a bit creepy to see him, but also very cool at the same time.

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