Visiting Uncle Ho
09.01.2008 - 11.01.2008 25 °C
Hanoi is a lively and very interesting city. We stayed in the Old Quarter not far from the Restored Sword Lake. The French influence is quite obvious in the design of the buildings and streets but it is a bit like Saigon with the street-crossings. After taking in some of the Old Quarter, local cuisine and lake area, we went to one of the Water Puppet shows for which the city has some fame. It was fascinating with these floating puppets being driven from behind some screens to act out a variety of scenes.
Today we went to the Ho Chi Minh memorial complex to dutifully file past his corpse in the mausoleum, see his humble house, read of his wonderful and benevolent greatness, see his used cars (??? there is always a surprise), and so on. Uncle Ho seemed to be one hell of a guy. In addition to this, we went to the Temple of Literature and the Fine Arts Museum.
The food here has also been great and we have tried a few of the regional specialties. The first night we went to a little restaurant that only served one dish. It was a fish arrangement cooked in front of us in a clay pot over a wood fire. It was really tasty and had the added bonus of making the ordering really easy. The second night we went to another restaurant that had about 200 items on the menu. Service in the restaurants, shops and hotels is very obliging. As I was on the hotel internet the other night, the man at the desk was sitting there practising his English by reading something from a magazine out aloud. He said, "... that is a very nice turtle-necked sweater that you have on, ... I really like your jewelry ...". I checked to see what I had on but was disappointed to see that he wasn't talking to me. Although it had shades of Manuel from Fawlty Towers about it, he was displaying a top effort for eagerness.
Tomorrow we leave for a trekking sojourn in the Sapa area up nearer to the Chinese border. We sleep on the train and are then met by a private guide to go wandering through villages, mountains, paddy fields, etc. and stay at an eco lodge. The trip was recommended to us by some Australians we met in Hoi An. It is all organised for us and we get to interact with some of the local villagers who are members of different ethnic minorities. It should be fun.