Hanoi sits in the north of Vietnam, the capital, the resting place of Ho Chi Minh and the grande dame of French Colonial architecture. The old quarter was settled 800 years ago by 36 guilds. That legacy is alive and well today. There is toy street, chinese herb street, funeral requirement street, blacksmith street, musical instrument street…row upon row of narrow fronted shops fully loaded with stock that spills onto the footpaths. People are everywhere…eating, sitting, walking, riding and selling things. A girl walked past with a bowl of toads.
The Temple of Literature built in 1047 was an idyllic oasis from the crush of humanity outside its walls. It was here that the Mandarins trained to serve the Emperors so it is Vietnam’s first university.
Our hotel was on the edge of the old quarter and we plunged into the mêlée that is Han Oi and marched the boys down to the lake about 1.2km. Hot, humid and crazy traffic (motor bikes, cyclists, pedestrians carrying huge loads…all ignoring traffic lights) swirled around us. No place to walk as footpaths covered in parked bikes or stall products. By the time we got to the lake we were a dripping mess and the boys were white! DS1 wrote in his journal it was the most dangerous thing he’d done in his life! By the end of the holiday we were experts at crossing roads…the slow, deliberate weave-walk, as opposed to the frantic dash works so much better 🙂
We sank into the ice cream parlour chairs and ate banana splits! Gotta love the French influence of ice-cream, baguettes, croissants and pastries! Vanilla ice-cream never tasted so good. National day was the day before and flags and banners were flying everywhere. I LOVED Han Oi…Saigon paled in comparison seeming to be a lot more western. Glorious French Villas abount and our welcome dinner and day tour lunch were both in VERY flash gourmet restaurants in restored villas. I felt quite the hick in my shorts and lugged my backpack. We went to the water puppets the night we arrived ….wooden puppets seemed to skate across the top of the water and the fish jumped in and out looking totally real. It was a stunning performance and introduced us to legends, beliefs and rural life which featured over the next 13 days.
So now, which wire wasn’t working properly?