Friday, December 21, 2007

Hanoi

I arranged for the minivan and train tickets in Sapa and the minivan felt strange because I was not use to traveling with so many westerners. It seems that Vietnam is big on the backpacks list of places to be and there is no shortage of backpackers here. I had booked a hard sleeper on the train since I had enjoyed traveling by hard sleeper in China. The hard sleeper in Vietnam is different from China and in Vietnam it is really a hard sleeper. There is no mattress at all on the bunks. Ever with it being really hard I did not seem to have a problem and slept pretty good but think I will have to break down and pay for something with AC as I move south.

The train arrived in Hanoi about 5 in the morning and neither my compartment mates or myself were sure we were in Hanoi until the lights in our compartment went out. With the lights out me and my Vietnamese compartment mates figured it was time to get out. I was really glad that Hanoi was the train's last stop or who knows where I would have gotten out.

I also was not really sure which of the train stations in Hanoi I was in so found the waiting room and set with my guidebook and tried to figure a direction to walk. I am not a morning person and the bread sellers would not leave me alone. I have sort of learned that when people are trying to sell you something that you don't want a good attitude is the key to dealing with it but sorry a good attitude is hard to come by at 5 in the morning. I escaped the train station and the bread sellers and walked towards the old quarter. It is strange coming into a city before it wakes up. I ended up finding my way to the old quarter with no problem even with no lights, very few street signs and really dead streets. Now I am amazed I found my way with no problems since it seemed after that every where I walked in Hanoi I seemed to go in circles. I made it to the Hoan Kiem Lake at the edge of the old quarter and figured it was stupid looking for a hotel before the sun was up so just found a park bench and planted myself and waited on the sun. The park around the lake is really busy at this time of the morning with people jogging and doing all sorts of strange exercises. I think a few of the people were trying to fly by flapping their arms. I should not say anything bad since everyone I saw doing these strange flapping and squatting exercises were all really thin. I think from now on I may start begin every morning trying to fly.

For the number of nights that I stayed in Hanoi I did not get a lot of the sites seen. I seem to have slowed down a lot on site seeing but I found one thing in Hanoi that I really loved. It is called Bia Hoi or fresh beer. There are these little dive type of places with kiddy plastic chairs where you set and drink draft beer. Most of them also sell food that is at a normal price rather then the tourist prices that I paid everywhere else I ate in Hanoi. I spent most of my evenings in one of these places enjoying the beer and watching the world go by. I only saw one scooter accident while sitting and watching which is amazing with the way that the traffic flows in Hanoi. Here is a picture of 2 guys I met in a Bia Hoi place but they did not speak any English and I don't speak any Vietnamese so the conversation was a little lacking. They did buy me a beer so they are now life time friends.



I did not spend all of my time drinking beer! I did manage to take in my laptop that is sort of broken to a dealer to see if it could be repaired. After leaving it with them for 2 days they said it would take a month to get the parts so said I would just take it with me and maybe see if I could get it repaired quicker somewhere else. I now have an excuse to extend my trip to Taiwan where the laptop is produced. Well maybe??

As far as site seeing I visit the Temple of Literature which is a Confucius temple and was a nice site but still just another temple. One day I visited the History Museum and the Revolutionary Museum. The history museum had some interesting stuff but the Revolutionary Museum really seemed to get me thinking about Vietnam history so after leaving it I found a place to set and reread the history section of the guide book. I did not know a lot about the French colonial days or a lot of the facts about the Vietnam war (Know as the American War in Vietnam). I did not really expect to get much out of the Revolutionary Museum but I was really surprised and enjoyed seeing the other point of view from the American one on the Vietnam war. It talked a lot about the puppet government of the south. I also visited the Hoa Loa Prison Museum better know to me as the Hanoi Hilton. Funny that the real Hanoi Hilton is only a few blocks away and I wonder who would reserve a room in the Hanoi Hilton? The Museum had a few small bits on the pilots kept there during the Vietnam war but most of it was about the prisoners kept there by the French and Japanese. It did have a Guillotine that was used by the French.



I also went to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and the trip there was as interesting as the museum. I took a scooter and the traffic in Hanoi is a bit wild with scooters
everywhere. The guidebook talks about the rule of the road in Vietnam is who ever is bigger has ride away. I think my scooter driver figured with my size we had all of a sudden became a bus and was going to rule the road. I found this a rather scary ride and was really glad that the driver I had for the return trip did not seem to drive wild.

The ethnology museum had displays on a lot of the different minority people of Vietnam and also had some buildings that the people live in. Walking in some of the buildings was a little bit scary for me. A number of them are up off the ground and it seemed to me that the floor was just made of a bunch of twigs. I could see through the floor and with my weight I was sure I was going to crash through at any moment. This is the building that was the highest off the ground.

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