Hanoi celebrated its millennium in 2010 and much
was done to clean it up and give it a face lift for the big event. It certainly
is cleaner than I remember it, and the traffic, though still fierce and chaotic,
is not as bad as it was back then. There are even some traffic lights and
pedestrian crossings in place - though not enforced. The ladies with overloaded
bicycles and bamboo pole baskets are fewer, and the motorbikes now compete with
electric stretch golf carts...
I returned to the hotel and got ready for the tour, of for
joy!! It is not that I didn't enjoy the places that we went
too, but I hate being herded on and off buses, told what to
look at and not being allowed to just wander at my own pace.
We went to a beautiful Pagoda on a lake, the Ho Chi Minh
Museum and his house and gardens which was amazing, then
onto the Temple of Literature and the Museum of Ethnology...
On the bus, I could hardly find a tiny room for myself and I
also had people nudging at me, being compressed between the
two rows of seats. I had to spend all the night long
crouched on some boxes with the suffocating smell of the
food that the local people brought on the bus that made me
wish to get off the bus as soon as dawn appeared.
Eventually, the morning came and, just after crossing the
border to enter Vietnam...
Bun Cha is a dish consisting of chargrilled pork patties and
sliced barbecued pork. It is served with rice vermicelli
noodles, sliced kolorabi in fish sauce and fresh greens
(basil, cilantro and mint). We were escorted up into a
narrow staircase to a small room that sat about twenty
people. It was lunch hour and there were many people,
including the two of us devouring this yummy dish...
Side walks are not used for walking. If they are not filled
with vendors or parked motor bikes, then during rush hour
they are used as an extension of the road. Motor bikes pop
up the curb and zig zag in any available space. And all the
honking… you get immune to it and soon you can block it all
out; unless your in a small alley and even though you have
made eye contact with an approaching motor bike, they will
still honk. It’s like, I freakin see you...
The old quarter of approximately 40 streets radiates from
Hoan Kiem Lake and still today follows the original early
20th century street layout and is full of dilapidated old
houses. Each street specialised in a particular trade, a
tradition which is predominately still followed. One street
sells only woollen scarves and hats, another ladies
underwear, another buttons and zips or tin products, toys,
funeral items or shoes...
So we arrived in Hanoi this am, and visited Ho Chin Mihn's
mausoleum, but sadly he was in Russia getting his annual
dobie up, so we couldn't file respectfully past his
mummified body. We then visited a lovely pagoda on a single
pedestal, where, if you want babies - that is where you go
to pray. We then went to the university which turned out to
be a huge surprise...