AsiaVietnamHanoi

Blood and Bile

Hanoi Travel Blog

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People waiting outside the pharmacy

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.

Patient bed
  The families all looked at me very hopefully like I was going to be able to help them somehow.  I didn't know what else to do except to say some things that they didn't understand and try to smile.  The beds the kids slept on were metal with bamboo mats on top.  Everything seemed very dirty and their IVs looked very prone to infection.  It was all very sad.  I can't imagine the survival rate is very high there with such limited resources.

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.

Bleeding the snake
  They first brought out a cobra and played with it in front of me.  Then they brought out a smaller green snake and told me this was my dinner.  They grabbed it's head and slit its throat, letting the blood pour into a glass.  Next he cut into the body and pulled out the gall bladder, pouring the bile into a glass with alcohol, then he sliced again and pulled out the beating heart, and took the snake away.  They poured the blood and gall into seperate little shot glasses and brought them to me along with the still beating heart.  The waitress told me to put the heart in the blood and drink in one swallow.  I did.  It wasn't as bad as I expected, though it definitely tasted like blood.  She told me to have the bile with my meal.
Cutting out gall bladder
  They then brought out soup, ground bones to eat with chips, spring rolls, stir fry, and seaweed rolls all made from the snake.  It was pretty good overall, though I didn't like the bones.  The owner then came back and drank the bile with me.  Quite the experience!

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.

The beating heart- hungry yet?
  There wasn't that much there and the focus was mostly on how the Vietnamese were treated when they were imprisoned there.  It was interesting to read the Vietnamese perspective on the war and POWs though. 

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.

The meal
  Another area had religious altars with people making offerings.

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.

Pediatric Hospital
  Otherwise I just have been guessing and pointing, never knowing what I actually end up with.  I ended up with eel soup, spring rolls, and a tapioca and black gelatin dessert similar to tricolor.

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.

Children's hospital
  I got a kick out of some of their displays of Western artifacts, including a lab tube I use every day!  It was very eye-opening to see the things you generally accept as "normal" procedures from an outside perspective.

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.

gejah says:
you are very brave! I would not have eaten that!! Brrr
Posted on: Dec 01, 2008
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People waiting outside the pharmacy
People waiting outside the pharmacy
Patient bed
Patient bed
Bleeding the snake
Bleeding the snake
Cutting out gall bladder
Cutting out gall bladder
The beating heart- hungry yet?
The meal
The meal
Pediatric Hospital
Pediatric Hospital
Childrens hospital
Children's hospital
Procedure room
Procedure room
Bleeding the snake
Bleeding the snake
Mixing the bile
Mixing the bile
Ceramics for sale
Ceramics for sale
Snakes in jars
Snakes in jars
Bile, blood, and beating heart
Bile, blood, and beating heart
Cobra
Cobra
Cobra
Cobra
My dinner
My dinner
Hanoi
photo by: mario26