Posts filed under 'Hanoi'
My last day in Hanoi…it’s 5pm and I’m about to have a meal before getting ready for another night train excursion – this time heading south (to the warmth- hooray!) to a town called Hue. Speaking of food by the way, the Hanoi cuisine is quite good – a French/Vietnamese infusion – lots of tasty things to est (The French, in case you didn’t know, ruled in Vietnam for almost 100 years back in the day when it used to be part of the IndoChine Empire).
So today I went to see Uncle Ho – in the flesh (albeit embalmed). The Ho Chi Minh Musoleum is a big tourist attraction for Vietnamese and Westerners alike. They really, really liked their former President. So much so that they embalmed him when he died (against his wishes I believe – he wanted to be cremated) and now he’s on public display for everyone to see. You can only see him in the morning though from 8-11am – I guess they put him back in the freezer for the afternoons. Eight armed guards were surrounding the body as we walked through (in complete silence of course and with hands to the sides – no hands in pockets, too disrespectful)…a site to see indeed.
After that I went next door to the Ho Chi Minh Museum which is dedicated to Uncle Ho’s life. What I found most interesting was the exhibit of his poetry which he wrote while imprisoned in China. I think the book is called The Prison Dairy. Anyway, I managed to copy down a few:
Hard is the Road of Life
I, having Travelled over Steep Mountains and Deep Ravines,
How could I expect in the Plain to meet even greater danger?
In the Mountain I suffered no harm from the Tiger,
In the Plain I met with man and was thrown in Jail.
Listening to the Sound
Of Rice Pounding,
Under the Pestle how terrible the rice suffers!
But it comes out of the pound as white as Cotton.
In this World the same process happens to Humans,
Hard trials turn them into Diamond bright.
Advice to Myself
Without the Cold and Bleakness of Winter,
The Warmth and Splendor of Spring could never be.
Misfortunes have steeled and tempered me,
And even more strengthened my Resolve.
After Prison Practicing Mountain Climbing
The mountains embrace the clouds, the clouds hug the mountains,
The river below shines like a spotless mirror.
On the slopes of the Western Range, my heart beats as I wander,
Looking towards the southern skies and thinking of old friends.
An American soldiers jacket from the Wartime Museum
Statue of Ho Chi Minh or Uncle Ho
View of the lake in the center of Hanoi, Vietnam
January 31st, 2002
So, I decided to spend another day in Hanoi to figure out a bit of a plan and buy more layers of clothing…yesterday I bought a fleece, a hat, and a pair of gloves and I felt MUCH better about being here after that. I am still wearing socks with the Chacos though – although they have tons of stores with fake Nike and Adidas sneaks I have not actually bought a pair yet. I could still kick myself for leaving my sneakers in Bangkok!
Yesterday I was having a coffee and met some really nice girls that had just come from the north so I was eager to hear about their experience. They had been climbing on Fansipan (Vietnam’s highest peak) and they told me all about it – a wet, muddy, poorly maintained trail with no views at the top and very average food (just another day on the Appalachian Trail, right – hah!).
Yeah so I’m thinking about doing it but I am going to take the train up there and see what the weather is like. Don’t know if I can handle anything much colder than Hanoi! Tomorrow I am taking a bus out to Halon Bay on the coast then I’ll come back Saturday and take the overnight train to Sapa in the far north of Vietnam, just 3 km from the Chinese border. Holy remoteness! It sounds beautiful though – in my guidebook Sapa is described as having’hillsides covered in terraced rice patties resembling giant staircases.’
Last night I met up with the girls I had met earlier in the day…actually they had mentioned a wine tasting event near the Sofitel which is a five-star hotel in Hanoi so I went into reception and asked about where it was and they pointed me to the pool area where these Korean businessmen were having an open-bar private party so I scored a few free glasses of red wine there before finding my friends for real. Two of the girls had just come from 2 months in China and another two had come from 2 months in Nepal so there were a lot of good stories going around. Fun evening with good people.
I am now off to see some real live authentic water puppet theatre in town – supposed to be quite a show. Then it will be an early night so that I can be on the 7am bus tomorrow…
January 24th, 2002
I cannot believe that just yesterday I was in Bangkok sweating profusely from the heat and complaining about the humidity and now I am in Hanoi in my hotel room under a heavy duvet and I am FREEZING my ass off! No one told me it was winter here!! OK, compared to home it’s quite mild (17C), but after being on the beach for nearly 3 months this is DRASTIC! I am wearing a long-sleeve shirt for the first time since I’ve been in Asia!
So I arrived today to Hanoi…I’m staying in the Old Quarter of the city which is the’backpacker’ area but it’s quite charming with a lot of French influence showing in the buildings here. I took a bus from the airport and then went straight to the one ATM in the city (and all of Northern Vietnam for that matter) before looking for accomodation. The local currency (Vietnam Dong) is so weak that there are 14,000 Dong to one USD. I made a 1,500,000 Dong withdrawl – it felt very strange to be entering such a large number into the ATM – the biggest numerical withdrawl I’ll ever make!
Some things to get used to here –
1. They drive American-style on the right-hand side and the driver is on the left in the car…this actually looks quite bizarre to me after finally getting used to the British-style in Thailand.
2. It is COLD here (did I mention that yet?)
3. Traffic laws are non-existent. Movement on the road is only achieved by honking. You honk when you want to pass, you honk while you are passing, you honk on the straightaway (just in case), and you definitely honk to get through intersections. I have never heard so many horns going off at one time in my entire life.
Believe it or not, there are actually MORE motorbikes here than in Bangkok – so many in fact that the streets are SWARMING with them AND the sidewalks are TOTALLY full with parked bikes to the point where you can’t walk on the sidewalk and you risk death every step you take on the road. I think there are like 77 million people in Vietnam and I’m quite sure that EVERY single one of them owns a motorbike. Somehow it seems to work for them though – order within the chaos I guess.
Tomorrow I’ll decide for sure but I’m thinking about leaving the bike in Hanoi for a week to go north to Sapa to do some trekking and then come back here to then cycle south to Saigon. Will tour the town tomorrow and then decide.
Traffic in Hanoi, Vietnam
Street vendor in Hanoi (selling live chickens!)
January 23rd, 2002