Katja and Arne's travel stories

15.01.15 Hanoi exploration

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After a good night’s sleep we slowly get around in the morning. A little sea breeze yesterday made us sleep like babies.
When we arrive for breakfast three different staff members inform us that “Your friend already been here!” They are extremely nice at the hotel, I got to say. The staff is young, but very attentive and always smiling and asking about our day. We have found a little jewel here in the city of Hanoi.
When we came down Mette is back from her morning walk and we agree on a meeting time for getting coffee. We head out and on the way check with the concierge about tickets for the water puppet show. Yup, you read that right. “Better to buy direct, more cheap”, she answers. Since its just around the corner for the hotel we get tickets for this afternoon before heading to the coffee place.
After getting a nice cappuccino we go to the post office, but make a detour on the way.

The lake, Hoan Kiem,    here were we live in Hanoi is very special. It has a temple that is the most visited temper in Hanoi. You must cross a little bridge to get out to it, and the place is a favored place for newly weds to take photos. The temple is dedicated to an emperor who beat back a Chinese invasion back in the days as well as a couple of other men. The most spectacular thing though, is the turtle they have displayed there. It’s said to have weighed about 250 kg when it died. It’s one big turtle. I can tell you that.

At the post office we have another parcel our two that we want to send back. One to you, Ben. Another is a surprise to the recipient.  The post office was another great experience. Professional and nice. The man who helped us spoke both English and French. A rare feat in this city.

A map of the world, but with a different placement than we are used to back home. It was on the wall in the Central Post Office

A map of the world, but with a different placement than we are used to back home. It was on the wall in the Central Post Office

We walked through a fancy shopping center in the belief that it is a art gallery at the top floor. It wasn’t. The shopping mall was fairly empty. This is not a place for the common Vietnamese, and really not for anybody else without a lot of money. All the big brands are here and though we are in a low cost country, don’t think it’s cheap.
The girls went their way, I took a motorcycle taxi to the National War museum. Driving a motorcycle in this city is an art and I filmed some of it.

The museum was cool. There is history from thousand years back to modern history. The wars of this country has been quite one sided in its presentation to us. American films have been the dominant factor in “educating” me in this part of history. This time I got to see and read the other sides memoirs.
Being a communist army it was a lot of “Comrad” and “hero of the people” titles. A lot of the weaponry displayed was captured from the enemy and then used to kill imperialists, traitors and reactionaries. Each displayed item was accounted for (when appropriate) about who had taken it, and where it had been used later in the war.
On top of the list, display wise, was a Russian Mig used in fighting and an American chopper. The type that has been used in all the previously mentioned movies. Uncle Ho is also displayed in various settings. As a speaker to the people, while inspecting the troops, when he’s rallying people to the war, and he is “the most reverent”, “Comrad” and “Uncle”.
This land is so defined by war over so many years it’s amazing to find the peace and positive attitude here now. Hanoi has grown from 1,2 million people in 1990 to about 8 million today. That is a growth rate it’s hard to phatom. A lot of the young people don’t want to be farmers and move to the city for education and a possibility of an easier life. Understandable, but there are lots of land that still needs hard labor to produce food. How this will turn out in the end is hard to tell. Today Vietnam is the second largest exporter of rice, second only to Thailand. That means rice is cheap here and available to all. A change in the use of the land might change this and make rice more expensive and create problems for the poorer part of the population.
I got another motorcycle ride back to the hotel and got lunch at a local restaurant here. I sat down for a menu and flipped through it. The waiter came back, took the menu and opened on a page with a picture. “This is good!” Ok, guess I’ll have that one.
The chicken with veggies and fruits rice was indeed good. I ate and went up to the room and worked on the blog until Katja came back. Mette and Katja had been spending the afternoon at a nice hotel with a late and long lunch. We had thirty minutes to get ready before it’s time for water puppet theater.

Here I can now put in that Katja and Mette had been to one of the old and “royal” hotels in Hanoi. They had done lunch at the Metropole Hotel. This is a hotel where newly weds take some of their many wedding photos, the waiters are sharply dressed, the wine chilled and the cheese have names I can’t pronounce.

I don’t really know what I expected when we went to the theater, but it was nothing like what we got. Mette has been very sceptic on the whole thing, but came with us. It’s a theatre with a live orchestra and singers, and a pool of water as a stage. The puppeteers are working from behind a veil and controlled their puppets brilliantly.
The spoken part is in Vietnamese, but there were part’s off it that needed no translation. The change in tonation and volume made the audience howl with laughter in the part called:”Chasing the Fox who tried to chase duck.” It might be Google translate, I don’t know, but the text was  accurate enough to describe what happened. This kind of puppet theater has its basis in the rural areas and are depicting every day situations. Like catching fish and herding ducks. There are also folk song and fairytales. Fairytales like the story about how the old emperor got the sword from the turtle in the lake. With this sword was he able to beat the Chinese. The lake and the turtle are both here next to our hotel. It’s the lake we have walked around in the morning and the temple we visited this morning. After the show was over we all agreed it was great fun. I can highly recommend it.

Before we went for dinner we sat down at a cafe on the lake side. Katja and I did a juice, but Mette wanted to try the slow dripping Vietnamese coffee. In all honesty, the Vietnamese coffee is indeed an aquired taste. It tastes more like bitter coco than coffee, and not in a good way. Mette wanted the slow dripping one to see if it could salvage some of the reputation of the coffee around here. It didn’t.

Slow dripping coffee

Slow dripping coffee

We walked a little in the streets of the old town and ended up having dinner at a Indian restaurant. One of the best Indian meals ever. It’s a branch off Foodshop 45 further north in the city. Great meal and reasonably priced. We walked slowly, basically the only way of walking in the old town, back to the hotel. Now we’re publishing a few posts, emptying the camera and getting ready for tomorrow. Last full day in Hanoi before departure on Saturday.

Time was when I was immune to emotional shocks. But as I get older, I don’t get tougher; I get softer

― Robert A. Heinlein, The Puppet Masters

Author: arnber

Humongen! The big guy! The man, the myth, the legend! And then theres' me. The nice guy in the house. The man without cooking skills, but with five stars on the Playstation. Boss at work, relaxed at home. What you see is what you get. Life is good. I choose it to be.

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