Thứ Tư, 6 tháng 4, 2011


Our first night in Hanoi was crazy! We arrived in the evening, so after a walk we went to bed. Not too soon after turning out the light, bright floodlights were switched on outside our window (pointing in towards our window!). We think “what the?” and then we hear some engines turned on and the sound of bulldozers moving concrete rubble… so we look out the window and sure enough they’re bulldozing the place outside our room! And of course to save money of some sort they decided to START the work at 11:00pm! Sime went downstairs to talk to the hotel guys – they brushed him off saying it would all finish in half an hour or so… Of course it didn’t and they said this again, and it didn’t, and the next time Sime spoke to them they were sleeping on the couch downstairs and couldn’t be woken up! Sime said we wanted to change rooms etc – and they wouldn’t, so we asked for a refund. The guy said “yeah in the morning”…. So after a night of no sleep, we had to haggle with the hotel manager but eventually got a refund. We were sooooo tired that day – and after eating, spent a large chunk of the day trying to find a new room somewhere. Oh the joys of travelling cheap.
We loved the energy of Hanoi’s old quarter with it’s streetlife – people and food everywhere. But after a few days it also drove me insane – I was sick of the lack of respect for pedestrians which meant you could never go for a relaxing walk….always constantly checking around you for motorbikes about to hit you as you tried to manouvre the streets. The sound of the horns and the smell of the fumes means a constant state of noise and air pollution too – eeeeew :-(
But on the other hand, when we went to other “wealthier” parts of the city with wider footpaths (and were able to relax while walking) there was also a lack of that energy that draws you in to the busy parts… so a catch-22.
We really enjoyed the cheap street BBQs – where you sit down on teeny stools or chairs on the footpath and cook your own meal, while downing a cheap bia hoi. We also began our addiction for a morning Vietnamese coffee almost straight away ;-) Wow what a way to beat the heat! When you’re lacking energy and needing a relief from the tropics – a three way hit of (1) caffeine, (2) condensed milk (SUGAR!) and (3) cold ice is the best thing in the world. It is funny how the local coffee drinkers appear to men of leisure… they all sit and talk and just watch the world happening in front of them, drinking their coffee oh so slowly…and rarely a woman sits and has a coffee – all the women are off working really hard!
We did a bunch of the suggested touristy things in Hanoi…
* We saw the famous water puppets. A fun experience – we thought some of the show’s puppets were better than others. I enjoyed the live music/singing component of the show as much as the puppetry.
* We visited the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum which was bizarre (I’m not convinced it wasn’t the work of Madame Tussauds!). We lined up for a looooooong time to see him and at the time had no idea how lucky we were… We met some travellers in Hoi An a week and a bit later and they told us they were really disappointed the Big Ho had been sent to Russia for some R&R (apparently he goes there every year for a few months for some ‘maintenance’). We all realised that Sime and I had been to see him two days before they’d tried so we either saw him on the last day of the season or the second last day… either way we were lucky ;-) It was quite hilarious how intense the build up to see him was. It felt like we were in the army – as we were lining up, the guards would come and yell at us if we weren’t standing in perfect lines of two – people were scolded if they spoke and we had to quietly trek through army style – we entered the room, and were walked through past Ho at a steady pace – and before we knew it were back outside in the intense heat! Over so quick and not enough time to examine whether or not he was made of wax…haha…
We went to the Museum of Ethnology – which is an excellent museum exhibiting different ethnic groups of Vietnam – with displays both indoors (showing clothing, arts, artifacts) and outdoors with recreations of traditional houses. We thought the most interesting exhibit was a temporary show they had on about life in Vietnam during the Bao Cap/ Subsidy Economy (75-86). The exhibition included video interviews with Hanoi locals who spoke about life during this era – FASCINATING stuff! We sat and listened to/watched the majority of the exhibits and were surprised how honest some of these interviews were – especially with regards to criticising the government and life at the time. I read that the museum was considering putting this show on a permanent basis. I hope so – it gave me much more of an understanding of the people I was meeting on a daily basis in this crazy city. One thing that really stayed with me was the concept of transport changing over the years. In one personal story in the exhibit, a woman spoke of being extremely lucky to be the owner of a bicylce brought back from Russia – she was the envy of all her neighbours and friends – as not many people had a bicycle and certainly not very good ones if they did… I found it extremely bizarre to comprehend the intense change this place has been through – in only 20 or so years, these neighbourhoods have changed from streets full of peaceful pedestrians to streets crammed with bicycles and loud ‘abusive’ motorbikes with their constant horns blowing and dirty smoke forced into the faces of people working from the streets…. I wanted to ask these older locals how on earth they dealt with that change, and how they felt about it…? It bothered me so much and I was only a temporary tourist – I can’t imagine for those older locals what it must be like to reflect on what things were like in the recent past…
So apart from plenty of time spent walking about, people watching, drinking coffee, and eating taaaaaaasty food, we also went to Hoa Lo Prison (known as the Hanoi Hilton), Temple of Literature (heard some cool traditional music there), National Museum of History (half closed due to renovations!). I felt Hanoi is crazy place that can wear you down – the noise is relentless and not a place to hang out if you have claustrophobic tendencies. Having said that, it’s also lots of fun and I can’t wait to go back…
* All the photos (oh so many good ones! :-( ) from Hanoi were lost along with our stolen camera :-( See later entry with info about that!
- Annette
Such a vibrant city. Crazy pace. Total love and hate relationship with Hanoi…
We lined up for Uncle Ho twice actually – the first time we were too late….second time lucky! Extra lucky it seems as that was the last day before he was off to Mother Russia for a spring clean. That explained why it was sooo busy too.

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