Sunday, August 08, 2010

Vietnam Part One - Hanoi!

Rich and I started our recent holiday in Vietnam in Hanoi. I have to say Hanoi is the craziest city I've been to in Asia - there are people, animals and scooters everywhere. It's the only city I've ever been to where there have been live chickens in the streets.
One of our favourite places in Hanoi was Hoan Kiem Lake, it seems to be a favourite of the locals too. I think we went there about three times!

Here's a few of my favourite sights in Hanoi - first of all Hoa Lo Prison or the "Hanoi Hilton". This is an old prison that was constructed by the French during colonisation to subdue the Vietnamese freedom fighters. Later on during the Vietnam war it was used as a POW camp. It's a pretty haunted place, but well worth a visit to make you realise just how lucky you are!

We also went to pay a visit to Ho Chi Min or "Uncle Ho". On a crazy hot Hanoi day we lined up with tourists and Vietnamese people to visit the Ho Chi Min Mausoleum - it was a pretty surreal experience. We also got to see some important buildings from the time, which included Uncle Ho's stilt house.

We also visited the West Lake in Hanoi on the advice of the Lonely Planet guide, but to be honest if I visit Hanoi again I won't be making any effort to walk around the lake again. It's pretty horrible - it's the only waterway I've seen in my life with dead fish literally floating in it.

However, near the West Lake is Quan Thanh Temple and Tran Quoc Pagoda which are really beautiful and worthwhile seeing.

We also visited the "Temple of Literature" or Van Mieu, which is a beautiful but extremely busy temple. We even got to see some traditional Vietnamese instruments played whilst we were here.

Here's a few other things that I liked or was just plain puzzled by whilst I was saying in Hanoi.

1) Scooters! There are scooters EVERYWHERE! A taxi driver told us that there are 100 scooters to every car and he refered to the continual tooting as the "music of Hanoi".
2) Communist Propaganda - You can still it everywhere in Hanoi! However, rather ironically there are many stores devoted to selling propaganda posters and other items such as party badges to tourists.

4) Colonial French Architecture - I really like architecture and I've never really seen anything like the architecture in Hanoi before, even the buildings that have seen better days seem to have a kind of French shabby chic.

5) Eating a variety of fresh fruit - you can't get a lot of fresh fruit in Korea and you tend to pay quite a lot for the fresh fruit you can buy. I wanted to eat as much fruit in Vietnam as I could!6) Uncle Ho - He's everywhere!7) New Zealand Ice Cream - It's really popular in Hanoi - there's even a NZ ice cream chain which has Pure New Zealand posters inside.

8) Birds kept in delicate wooden birdcages - I really loved these cages and they were all over the city. I did feel sorry for the birds though - with all the fumes from the scooters I just don't feel like they would have a very nice life.9) Cheap drinks! As most people know, I'm really not much of a drinker but when the drink is this cheap you may as well have a few.
10) Dodgy Wiring - Maybe this was worse for me because I've worked with building law before and prior to coming to Korea I worked in property and New Zealand is pretty strict when it comes to building codes but all over Hanoi there was wiring like this. It's pretty scary stuff!That's our trip to Hanoi in a nutshell - next travel related blog will be about our amazing time in Halong Bay which was the highlight of our trip to Vietnam.

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