Hanging on in Hanoi
Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 27 of 43 › view all entries
March 19th, 2008 – by: worldcitizen
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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