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Hanging on in Hanoi

Hanoi Travel Blog

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Museum of Ethnology
I left the hotel almost as soon as I got there. A wanted to make it to a few sites before they closed. I flipped through my guidebook narrowed it down to the Museum of Ethnology, the Temple of Literature and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex. I didn't have much money on me, just about 120,000 dong which is about $7.50. I thought I had enough to make it to the Museum of Ethnology, but I still wanted to get some cash. The ATM near the hotel didn't seem to be working and the area was too crowded to try to figure it out so I left empty handed.

I found a few taxis waiting on the corner and it took two or three drivers to understand where I wanted to go. The museum was far from our hotel which I think was in or around Hanoi's Old Quarter.
The tall house
I nervously watched the meter go up and up, but thankfully I had just enough with a little dong to spare.

It wasn't enough to get into the museum though, so I asked the ticket attendant where an ATM was. She made it seem like it was just around the corner, but it ended up being a lengthy walk. I walked by a school where the kids ran up to the fence and said, "Hellooo!" Cute. I kept walking and walking. Where was the ATM? I finally found it and went back to the museum.

After I purchased my ticket, I saw a restaurant called Baguette and Chocolat. It's another disadvantaged youth training restaurant I had read about in my guidebook. I was starving and decided to eat there. I then went around the outdoor exhibit where they have replicas of houses of different Vietnamese ethnic groups.
Steps up to the tall house
I was very cool because you can go inside the houses and get a sense of how various ethnic groups in Vietnam live. The most interesting structures were a long house and a tall house.

In this area there were a bunch of school kids on a field trip. They kept running up to me, getting close and then running away from me giggling and screaming like I was a monster or something. It was disheartening. It upset me that since they were city kids, their perception of me was more likely based on negative views presented to them in media or elsewhere, rather than fear of the unknown. I know how kids don't always understand or think about how some of the things they do can make people feel. It bothered me that their teachers acted like they were oblivious to what they were doing.
The floor of the tall house, I was so worried it would break under my feet!
Eventually the kids realized I was there for the same purpose as they were- to check out the museum. They came up to me and said hello. I hope that in the future when they see someone else who looks like me, they will know that they can just simply say hello.

I continued on through the outdoor exhibit and then went indoors. Inside, much of the exhibits elaborated on what I saw outside, and I preferred the outdoor hands on style. I left the museum and found the moto driver who I agreed to get a ride from when I was done with the museum. We bargained and settled on a price.

When we got to the Temple of Literature, I handed him the money. He looked at me like I was crazy and asked for the rest of his money. Deja vu. I gave him a look and reminded him of the price we agreed on.
At this point in my trip, there was no room for blatant dishonesty geared towards seemingly vulnerable tourists, i.e., female solo travelers. He immediately backed off ("okay, okay") and then proceeded to ask where I was going next so he could wait for me and take me there. No thanks.

I went into the Temple of Literature. There used to be a university inside the temple. What I liked most there were the stone turtles with names of the university graduates carved above them. I went into a building where there was a performance of traditional Vietnamese music and sat down for awhile.

I looked at the map in my guidebook and decided I could walk to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex. Every bit of the way I heard, "Where are you going?" It's the typical opening line for taxis and moto drivers.
Tall house steps, much scarier on the way down
None of them want to hear that you're just going to walk.

It was an easy walk, even with my junky guidebook map and poor sense of direction. I walked across the checkered field of Ba Dinh Square until I reached the mausoleum which was closed. I wasn't interested in going in, so it was fine. I walked around the complex and found the One Pillar Pagoda. It is simple, but I really liked it and how it's supposed to resemble a lotus flower rising out of muddy water.

After I left, it started to rain and I found a taxi back to the hotel. When I got there, I bumped into a group member who told me on the way back, one of The Canadians had been hit by a motorcycle. I went to the only internet cafe I could find where it sounded like someone was drilling for oil outside and I was surrounded by all of these teenage gamer boys.
Lots of x-rated carvings...
It was super cheap so I couldn't complain. When the kids finished whatever game they were playing they stared and pointed at me.

As we got further north in Vietnam, I felt like I was always bracing myself for one thing or another- to be pointed at, to be laughed at, to be cheated out of money, to avoid pushy vendors. I was always trying to reconcile these feelings with being in awe of Vietnam's beauty. I was ready to leave and had felt that way for days. I was glad I had come to Vietnam, but so happy to be leaving for Laos the next morning.

I went back to the hotel and got ready for the farewell dinner. More than half of our group members were ending their trips in Hanoi. I met up with everyone in lobby and all at once they started to tell me the motorcycle accident story.
... Something about fertility...
Apparently they had stopped to take pictures of a rice field on the way back from Halong Bay. Some guy came barreling down the sidewalk on his motorcycle and ran right into The Canadian's leg. She eventually came down and showed me her leg which had the hugest bump I have ever seen. Everyone told me it had been even more swollen earlier, hard to imagine! We went to dinner at Cyclo Bar and Restaurant and then I went back to my room to sleep for a few hours before waking up very early to leave for Laos.
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Museum of Ethnology
Museum of Ethnology
The tall house
The tall house
Steps up to the tall house
Steps up to the tall house
The floor of the tall house, I was…
The floor of the tall house, I wa…
Tall house steps, much scarier on …
Tall house steps, much scarier on…
Lots of x-rated carvings...
Lots of x-rated carvings...
... Something about fertility...
... Something about fertility...
Interesting berries
Interesting berries
Closeup of the berries
Closeup of the berries
The long house
The long house
Inside the long house
Inside the long house
Cooking area in the long house
Cooking area in the long house
Bride and groom taking wedding pic…
Bride and groom taking wedding pi…
Houses next to the museum
Houses next to the museum
Artfully discarded pottery
Artfully discarded pottery
Water puppet exhibit
Water puppet exhibit
Water puppets
Water puppets
Display inside the museum
Display inside the museum
Bookmarks for sale at the Museum o…
Bookmarks for sale at the Museum …
Masks at the giftshop
Masks at the giftshop
Turtles at the Temple of Literature
Turtles at the Temple of Literature
Performance at the temple of liter…
Performance at the temple of lite…
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Back side of the Ho Chi Minh Mauso…
Back side of the Ho Chi Minh Maus…
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Ho Chi Minh Museum
One Pillar Pagoda
One Pillar Pagoda
Potted plants an a roof below my h…
Potted plants an a roof below my …
View of Hanoi from my hotel room
View of Hanoi from my hotel room
Hanoi Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Tasty Name, Tasty Food
Baguette & Chocolat- what an appetizing name! I came across this restaurant at exactly the right time, after a long journey from Cat Ba Island followe… read entire review
Hanoi
photo by: mario26