Reporting from Hanoi
11.07.2012 - 14.07.2012 33 °C
So almost as soon as we took off, and had a meal, it felt like they were preparing the cabin for landing... such a short hop for our long haul seasoned little travellers this was. In fact the flight was quite good fun, as a little girl from Jie Jie's new class was also on our flight, and as luck would have it, Jie Jie and I had a spare seat next to us so this little girl joined us for about 45 minutes and they drew and coloured and chatted like little business people! We will catch up with her family again as they were headed for HoiAn, our second destination.
As this is our first trip to Vietnam, and although we are primarily here for a beach holiday, we have opted to surround our beach trip with three days in the two main cities of Vietnam - Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and while we don't pretend with 3 days in each we can do justice to either, we will try! And already we have given Hanoi a pretty good effort.
We were collected from the airport and our first impressions of Hanoi was of the traffic... motorcycle traffic, it was everywhere. At least they use headlights and wear helmets, so in the evening darkness, at least they were visible. The driver was weaving in and out, and we didn't see any collisions, or near misses. We did see 4 people on one bike, and the car at one stop was completely surrounded. The kids were zonked, and both asleep for the journey, and stayed asleep as we checked into the Impressive Hotel (that's the name!!) in the Old Quarter. Our room was basic, a double bed and a single for all of us, a very efficient mini fridge, and TV with English language Cartoon Network and Disney Channel!!
We woke early on the first morning, and after having the air conditioning blasting all night, we were struck by the humidity, and so was our camera which fogged up as soon as we stepped on our balcony to take our first snapshots of our Hanoi street. We headed downstairs for breakfast, and decided to start with the Vietnamese way and ordered Chicken Pho for breakfast! Was delicious!
We then set out into the humidity to explore our local surrounds. It wasn't long before we found the Hoan Kiem Lake, and the stunning Red Sunbeam Bridge. But found that to pay the entrance fee to cross the bridge we needed to have Vietnamese Dong, and unfortunately we were only carrying USD, so we went off in search of an ATM and withdrew 500,000VND (unfortunately only US$20 - so didn't go very far! Jie Jie and Didi by this time were starting to feel the effects of walking in the humidity (did I mention that we have no pram this trip??) and so stopped at an air conditioned juice bar for a good rest. We then went back to the Sunbeam Bridge, and visited the Jade Mountain Temple on the island there, saw the giant tortoise which is the subject of an ancient legend about the lake. The kids then sung and danced on a small stage overlooking the lake with a performance (in English and Mandarin) that entertained not just us!
We opted to head back to the hotel for a siesta. The heat of the day was wearing all of us out, and we thought that if we gave the kids some down time we would be able to venture out again later when the temperature dropped. We made the mistake of letting the kids watch TV, and subsequently once their bodies were rested they then climbed all around the room, driving us nuts! But we'd made provision for that and so headed off to see Thang Long Water Puppets - we had seen some photos of this show, but really had no idea what to expect. The stage was a pool of green water and a large red pagoda. We had front row seats, which was amazing, and the theatre was packed. The show started with Festival Drumming and an overture performed on traditional Vietnamese musical instruments. The wooden puppets came out and were 'swimming' through the water, controlled by their puppeteers, hiding behind a curtain hanging at the front of the pagoda. Each piece was a stand alone story, and we saw a number of Vietnamese myths and legends come to life with cleverly manipulated puppets. The kids loved it!! We then went for a pizza dinner and our first Vietnamese beer. Then home to bed.
On our second day we headed out to the Temple of Literature, a stunning collection of old buildings originally built as a centre of higher learning in honour of Confucius. We saw a number of graduands in academic dress posing for photos with their newly conferred degree certificates. We enjoyed wandering around the Temple looking at the statues, art, gardens, bonsai and inside the temple. We had an early pho lunch just outside the Temple and then splashed out on a Cyclo trip home to the hotel, for what I think will become routine on this holiday, a midday nap...
On our last night in Hanoi, we headed out again to look for a painting. We wandered around, past motorcycle fixing shops, bamboo ladder stores, wedding invitation stores, tailors, each street or block seeming to be specific for one thing only. We walked through a wet market, and then finally succumbed to the cries of 'I'm hungry', stopped at an on street cafe for a beef and potatoes stir fry and pork fried rice. After some persuasion Jie Jie actually ate some of the fried rice. And the potatoes in the beef and potatoes stir fry were actually french fries! It was quite amusing because we weren't expecting it! And just as we were finishing dinner the heavens opened with an enormous tropical storm. We stayed put for about half an hour, and Didi befriended the waiter, and wanted to help unblock the gutter drain!
When the rain finally eased we headed for home, stopping in a number of galleries looking at some oil paintings... really lovely. But ended up carrying the kids home and hitting the sack!! Now we are waiting for transport to the airport for our next flight, and the next leg of our holiday! The beach!!!