Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 13 of 20 › view all entries
We arrived in Hanoi after a very claustrophic 11 journey from Hue. We didn't get a sleeper as it is really difficult to sit up, even for me, as the beds are quite low. We didn't really want to lie down for 11 hours straight so we got seats. I find the trains a bit scary sometimes, as when they speed up they sound like they are going to fall apart. Another annoying but funny thing was that they were showing Top Gun on the TV screens, but it was dubbed into Vietnamese by one high pitched lady. She didn't even make an effort to lower her voice when Tom Cruise was on, it was the same pitch for everyone. We got into Hanoi at 4:30am (euw!) and then got a taxi to our hostel. We were then informed we couldn't check in until 6am, which was okayish as it was 5am when we got there and we just went on Facebook. It was no way near as bad as Hoi An, when we arrived back at our hotel at 1am, only to find everything was locked and bolted. We just shouted 'Hello!!!' really loudly until the night staff woke up. Anyway, at 6am we were informed that we couldn't check in till 12. We buddyed up with Andy and Jess, two people in the same position and went for coffee and breakfast in order to fill some time. Then Kat and I went into the Prison musuem for a couple of hours, which was really harrowing and extremely political. We eventually managed to check and went for a cold shower, and then it was time for Lunch.
For the rest of that day we had a minor panic about money, but we continue to spend it regardless.
Hanoi is no way near as busy as Saigon, and is a lot more authentic, with trees gowing out of the pavement and tiny little back streets. I haven't spotted a pizza hut here yet which makes me very happy. There was a shop that was pretending to be a topshop, but it had Jeans from Oasis in it?!
I have enjoyed all the sites we have seen in Hanoi. We went to the Ethonology Musuem, a half an hour by Motorbike from the city centre. Although there is not quite as much traffic here they still drive like maniacs and the ride was a bit hairy. The musuem told us a lot about the different hill tribes in Sapa and the Mekong Delta, and they have replicas of houses that you can climb up and walk around. They was also a replica of a tomb there, surrounded by symbols of fertility. It was really cool, but a lot parents had to sheild their children's eyes to avoid awkward questions. That evening we went for drinks at the hostel and chatted to some cool people, northeners for once and then went to the water puppet theatre. The stage is a pool of water, and the puppeteers are hidden by what looks like a replica of a house and a long curtain. The puppets are attached to long sticks, which the puppeteers can stick our from underneath the curtain and make them move. It is a very beautiful and skilled art form and some of the puppets are very cute. Kat felt it would have been better if there was some kind of story, but I enjoyed the spectacle nonetheless.
One of the must see sites in Hanoi is Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body. There is a very long queue to see this, filled with a whole mix of people from young children to ageing Viet Cong war vetrans. You are only in the chamber for a matter of minutes (you are not really allowed to stop anywhere on route) but it is a very sombre experience. Ho Chi Minh apparently wanted a quite cremation, I wonder what he would think of the thousand of tourists and Vietnamese residents who come to gawp or pay their respects every day. The musuem attached to the complex is quite bizarre. Instead of being about the history of the war, most of it is abstract art. There wil be an exhibition, for example, on the inside of Ho Chi Minh's brain. This contrasts with their fine art musuems, which are mostly pictures related to the war - it seems like they have got it the wrong way around! Saying that, the musuem was a really interesting experience, as it tries to gove you a sense of history instead of just fixing it to abstract names and dates.
The rest of our time in Hanoi was taken up with going to the cinema with Anna, Nolawi and Camilla to see 'He's just not that into you'. It was really good. We also had a brief look around the Temple of Literature, which was huge and only 10000 dong for the whole complex. There were some really interesting statues, and a giant bell. At one point I also got covered in Chocolate, a easter gesture that went a bit wrong.
One thing Kat and I just can't get used to is the amount of people (not always Vietnamese) who want to take pictures of us, or take pictures without asking. That coupled with people pointing, staring and laughing at us when we are going about our daily lives is slightly depressing sometimes. One thing that we can't figure out is what do they do with the photos afterwards?