Blood and Bile
Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 16 of 19 › view all entries
This morning I said goodbye to the French couple after breakfast. Luyen helped me hire a taxi for the day so I could see as much of Hanoi as possible. First I went to the hospital for Pediatrics, but the person I was supposed to see was in a meeting. They told me I could just look around the onocology ward. It was incredibly depressing. There were about 6 families per room. In what I assume was the iso room, the family members all wore gowns, but the door was wide open and other people just came in and out. Their equipment looked so old, I can't imagine it was very accurate. I didn't see a single medical person in any of the rooms, they were all sitting in the center and talking the entire time.
After that experience, I went to first the ceramics village and then the snake village. At the snake village I went upstairs in a restaurant where the owner sat down with me and had a shot of rice wine. He showed me how his hand was deformed after being bitten by a king cobra.
Next it was back to downtown Hanoi where I went to the post office to mail some things home. But they didn't have any packaging, so I spend the next hour coming up with makeshift packaging (a tupperware bowl, a pillow sham, and diapers) to mail things back to the states, hopefully in one piece. I guess I'll find out in three months! (Assuming it actually gets there, Luyen wasn't too optimistic about me even receiving anything).
I walked around Hoan Kiem Lake, then headed to the Hanoi Hilton where John McCain was a POW.
I next had the taxi driver take me to a cafe that sells sivet coffee, only to fine out it was closed. I was very disappointed, even though I hate coffee.
So instead it was off to the Temple of Literature which is dedicated to Confucious. The temple looked like it may not be around much longer since all the roofs were sagging, but it was relatively peaceful. There was a small garden at the entrance with a pond with lilly pads and most of the structures were mossy and very old. One area had the "stelae" which were plaques for each of the doctors honored there, for some reason represented by large turtles.
Next on my whirlwind tour of Hanoi was Ho Chi Minh's palace. I walked around the museum and saw the outside of the heavily guarded mausoleum which houses a mummified Ho Chi Minh, but was closed in the afternoon. I also saw the One Pillar Pagoda and was less than impressed. I was rather surprised that the structures were basically just boring cement.
I next headed to a restaurant Luyen recommended. It's mostly street food, but prepared cleanly in mini-kitchens, so it's very safe and you don't have to be as worried. It's great because you can walk through with your menu and ask which dish is which and then actually read what it's called and what's in it.
For my last stop of the day, I went to the Ethnology Museum. It was an excellent museum with many displays, artifacts, and videos of the various ethnic groups of Vietnam. The best was a temporary exhibit of childbirth around the world, complete with videos. It was told from a Vietnamese perspective of course, which led to some interesting perspectives on Western style medicine and cultural practices. It clearly regarded American practices like induction and C-sections as very odd. It also frowned upon having fathers being involved at all and emphasized how the vast majority of the world did not have a role for the father during childbirth.
Other than the childbirth exhibit, my favorite part was outside the museum. On the grounds, they had full-sized homes built in the traditional style of each ethnic group. You could go inside and they were all furnished in the traditional way, including farming equipment and irrigation systems that are used in the countryside. Since I didn't have time to get out into the countryside during my short time in Vietnam, I enjoyed being able to see some of these things close up other than just as I zoomed by on the highway.