So, I am still in Hanoi, having a wonderful time in the beautiful capital of Vietnam. I am still staying at the same hotel, the Green Park, and I must say it is not bad at all. It’s about 60 euros a night and the breakfast is nice with eggs, rice, toast, noodles and the awesome fruit you can get here. We have changed rooms since the roosters were a bit too much too handle for my boyfriend (light sleeper), but I understood from our tour guide that the roosters are a new thing around this hotel and that they will probably not last very long as it is unusual to keep loud animals like that in the city, even for a city as wild as Hanoi.
Anyway, on this second day we have had a pretty full schedule, I like my holidays far away from home to be full of experiences, so that is good. We started off the day pretty official, by visiting the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. I have never been to a mausoleum before and I thought it was beautiful. It is very official, but yet you can get pretty close and really see him very well. It was a very good experience. The place around the mausoleum building was beautiful too. Lots of plants, trimmed to greatness.
Afterwards we went to this park next to the mausoleum, which is gorgeous. They have this very yellow French colonial building, in which Ho Chi Minh did not want to live as he was just by himself so he thought it was way too big. Instead he first lived in one of the smaller houses behind it. Later they have built him a very nice home which looked a bit like a treehouse, with one floor and an open ground floor. Very beautiful and it was special to be able to walk there and check the place our ourselves.
Afterwards we went to visit the Vietnamese one pillar pagoda, which had a very beautiful Buddhist temple next to it. I am sorry for using the words beautiful and gorgeous so much, but it really is breathtaking. It is so obvious that this is a special place and you really feel that temples are sacred places. The statues often look amazing, with gorgeous flowers, the smell of scented sticks and the gold and red colours surrounding them. I feel very peaceful there, even though I am a bit conscious of myself being a foreigner that does not know one bit about Buddhism. I have visited a lot of temples and Buddhist countries, but there is so much to learn and to know about it. Sometimes I wished The Netherlands was a little bit more Buddhist, hi hi.
After the temple complex and the pagoda we went to see the temples of literature, which again, were very beautiful with lots of plants cut in the shapes of the animals of Vietnam: rat, snake, dragon, water buffalo, et cetera. The literature temples were used as a place of studying, teaching and learning. There were all these Asian letters carved into stones that were carried by stone turtles. There was a nice pond which seemed to be a great place to meditate. It was really something. In a small souvenir shop on the premises I have bought a necklace with Asian writing that says: Good Studying, as I really need that after failing one of my bachelor’s exams for the second time just before my holiday…
Of course I also bought some cards to send to my family, although it does seem a bit silly as we have wifi in almost every restaurant and hotel here (and they all have the same password, hi hi) so we keep in touch with them, sending them pictures on a daily basis anyway. But, still it is nice to send a real postcard with nice stamps, and see if they are arriving home sooner than we will hi hi.
The day was not over yet, far from it actually, because after the literature temple we checked out a big art museum full of Vietnamese and Japanese paintings and statues. Things from hundreds of years old, gorgeous statues from temples and a lot of paintings that show how much war this country has gone through. Vietnam has been occupied by the French, and as you might know they have had wars with China and America too. But they still stuck together and managed to keep their land and their identity.
The art museum was a bit boring after the cool things we had seen before, but I do feel it is part of the trip, just like going to the Rijksmuseum should be part of your visit to the Netherlands if you’d ever plan one. Also you could be very close to the paintings, so you could make pictures (of the ones that were not behind glass, as glass is not really easy to photograph).
After the art museum we had some time to go for lunch, which we did at the Little Hanoi, which is recommended by Lonely Planet and they are absolutely right. I loved everything, the spring rolls with pork, the chicken with cashew nuts and the beef with chilli peppers, it was all great. The location was pretty rad too, in the middle of all these small streets. I would also recommend this place, it really feels very authentic and it is very clean.
The afternoon activity was very cool, we went into the Old Town of Hanoi on a cyclo. A cyclo is a bicycle with a chair on the front. As we did the ‘sitting’ part, cute Vietnamese people did the riding part. Of course this was a bit awkward as I am a fat tall white lady, getting a bike ride by a skinny beautiful Vietnamese guy, but eventually we had a lot of fun and well, that is how they earn their living so I am happy to help out, I guess.. Also, the tour was really awesome, as the traffic is so intense in Hanoi and we almost bumped into nearly everything, but we did not hit anything because these people know exactly what they are doing. It was really enjoyable as the Old Town of Hanoi is amazing.
Time for a siesta hour in the hotel, to clean ourselves up a bit, have a small nap and then go to a water puppet show called Lotus. I did not really know what that would entail, but a puppet show sounds childish enough for me to potentially love it so I was curious to see if it was cool. It was not really. Not because the music was not good (fantastic traditional Vietnamese singing, live) or because the story or the dolls were not great, but it all simply looked a bit shabby. The dolls must need a lot of touching up after the show, as I think they are made of wood and the paint just comes off. They did not really have received a lot of love it seems, because many of the dolls missed paint. May be it is tradition, I am not entirely sure, but I just think the show would have been a lot nicer with brand new looking dolls.
Not because the music was not good (fantastic traditional Vietnamese singing, live) or because the story or the dolls were not great, but it all simply looked a bit shabby. The dolls must need a lot of touching up after the show, as I think they are made of wood and the paint just comes off. They did not really have received a lot of love it seems, because many of the dolls missed paint. May be it is tradition, I am not entirely sure, but I just think the show would have been a lot nicer with brand new looking dolls.
What was the biggest problem, was the language barrier. I am not the type to complain about language issues usually, but this time they just told a whole story in Vietnamese without giving us any context so that felt a bit like being left out. On the other hand, it is all Vietnamese tradition and I can imagine people must have loved this a lot when the country was less advanced than it is now. Also, it is a great way to tell stories, especially to a people that cannot write or read (which a lot of Vietnamese could not for a long time). It was very surprising seeing how many people eventually controlled the puppets, too. Very funny to see the whole group come out of the bleachers.
In the evening we went out to dinner to the Ngoc Mai Vang restaurant, which I did not really like. First of all because it is at a 17th floor so the view should be amazing but the way the windows are placed you can’t see a thing, and secondly because I did not really like the food. They had a lot of choice and variety (even snails, frogs and crocodile meat), but I am a picky eater and I did not really like the boney chicken and the fried rice that was also filled with meat. Again, I am a very picky eater, but I did hear from other people in the group that they were not too fond of the food, especially after the amazing dinner the evening before.
Tired but happy we walked back to the hotel. In my Lonely Planet (that is pretty old, 2007…) it says as a woman it would not be advisable to walk by yourself in the evening, but I must say even when I was a bit strayed away from the group I did not feel threatened or scared at all. In my opinion Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles feels more unsafe to walk alone in the evening than the city of Hanoi. But I guess it is a timing thing, sometimes you are just at the wrong time in the wrong place and every people has its bad ones, right? Now off to sleep, talk to you again tomorrow!