It’s another sunny day in Hanoi
No joke. The weather is beautiful and sunny. None of the freezing temperatures we were expecting. Yesterday I went for a wander through the Old Quarter and around Hoan Kiem lake with my room mate Jess (who also found sharing a room with two others a bit crowded). We had brief look at the big market here but unless you’re really into knock off designer bags and shoes, it’s a bit boring. There’s not even a great deal of touristy crap. The Old Quarter is great and will require a bit more exploring. It seems to be full of DVD stores, silk shops and cafes. There’s also an open air market where you can buy all kinds of meat, fish, turtles and these weird worm looking things that apparently live in water.
The lake is a lovely place to be on a warm sunny day. It is an interesting green colour and is clearly the place for young Hanoians to make out. The cafes there are quite expensive but I guess you pay for water views everywhere. In the evening a few of us went to a water puppet show. Water puppets are a traditional northern Vietnamese thing. All of the stories are traditional and set on the water/in rivers or rice paddies and the stage is actually under water, like a great big pool with all the set decorations around it. The puppeteers stand behind a screen while in the water and operate the puppets from there. They have to stand in nearly waist deep water the whole performance. It’s bit hard to explain but it was interesting to go see. The guidebooks hype it up a bit but it was worth seeing once.
Today we went on a city tour of Hanoi, taking in the big sights. First we visited Hoa Lo prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton. Not much of it now remains but what is there has been turned into a museum. There were a few pictures of John McCain on the walls, back then and more recently. American pilots who crashed in North Vietnam ended up staying there until the war was over. We also visited the one pillar pagoda (it’s quite small), the Temple of Literature (more temple, less literature – unless you count the postcards I bought), and although we couldn’t see Uncle Ho (who apparently doesn’t go to Russia for touchups now – Vietnam does all the upkeep) we did see the presidential palace and his somewhat famous stilt house. Ho Chi Minh never lived in the palace but lived in the small stilt house in order to show that he was still one of the people. We had lunch at Koto (Know one, Teach one) which is a restaurant that supports and trains disadvantaged young people to work in hospitality. The food was delicious. There are a few of these type of restaurants about. In Saigon there is another one called Sozo (don’t know if it stands for anything) – I recommend the citrus cake. In fact all the food in Vietnam has been good, I’ve eaten so much during this trip. The mango flavoured cornettos are really very good.
Tonight we sadly say goodbye to seven members of our tour as they are finishing their shorter trip. So there is definitely dinner and drinks on the menu tonight. I can’t believe how fast this trip going. Tomorrow we head off to Ha Long Bay where we will spend the night on the boat after sight seeing.