Good morning Vietnam! Hanoi, you are mental.

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We flew into Hanoi, as we had read nothing but stories of woe about the twenty-four hour bus ride from Vientiane, and we’ve done plenty of ‘slow travel’ lately that It’s been eating into our time to actually visit places. The flights were reasonably cheap, and although I would usually prefer to take a train or a bus and enjoy the views, not at the expense of our actual trip. What is one day in a destination worth to someone?

Anyway, Hanoi this time of year is cold, and quite grey. At times it makes me think of the city in Bladerunner, other times I’m just thinking it’s like Wacky Races as there are literally a gazillion scooters coming at you from every angle. Crossing the road involves luck and confidence. It’s a bit like being in India again; but with noodles, and coats.

I do love this city though. It’s got history, culture, and amazing food. It’s really easy to get around on foot and the climate makes it bearable to just wander around all day without becoming intolerably sweaty. We spent a couple of days doing touristy things. We visited Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, but turns out they closed just as we arrived. We had heard from others that ‘Uncle’ as he’s affectionately known to the Vietnamese, is viewable in a glass coffin and had just come back from his restorative holidays in Russia. Unfortunately, the site shut down as soon as we arrived. The Mausoleum is nonetheless an excellent architectural site. We also got the chance to visit Ho Chi Minh’s house in the area behind his tomb, including his car collection. It wasn’t much like MTV Cribs.

We took a walk to the temple of literature. We’ve been getting a bit temple tired lately, and skipping all these sort of sites due to overkill. However, the temple of literature has something a bit different. It’s got lovely calm open spaces and peaceful atmosphere to it. There was also some sort of graduation there too, which was quite interesting. Whilst we were in the area we also checked out the Vietnamese Military Museum. There was lots of  tanks and planes and many exhibitions detailing how they drove away the Chinese and Americans. I was quite disappointed however, as they did not exhibit any propaganda art.

There are however, plenty of strange goings on; and odd things around to bemuse and confuse the foreign folk.

The first night we arrived, we wandered around for a bit and ate some food. I walked down the street and noticed all these people burning their rubbish – again, reminiscent of India – I genuinely couldn’t believe, or convince Jess that I had seen people burning money. After asking Google ‘Why do Vietnamese people burn money?’ it turns out these are fake notes you can buy all over the place to burn to bring prosperity to dead relatives. I don’t understand why they’re American dollars but I guess that’s a different question all together.

Pyjamas are REALLY popular.

One thing I am a bit surprised about is the basket ladies with the conical hats and two big flat trays to carry their goods. Now, firstly I was a bit surprised that they are everywhere, and not just in all the cliché tourist postcard spots, but that’s not really my point.
My point is; you’re just sitting down drinking a beer, for example and they say ‘banana, banana you want bananas?’  I don’t know if just me, but beer and bananas just don’t work for me and Jess absolutely hates bananas which makes me laugh when they’re trying to sell them to her, so you say no and then wait for them to offer their modelling services for a picture. Again, a polite but firm refusal is metered out to be met with a look of utter filth, like you’ve just taken a dump on their bananas. I don’t understand, maybe it’s lost in communication between two cultures. Maybe all the tourists cave and buy the bananas?

Cross stitch seems to be the national past time, and it’s always flowers. Also they’re usually at work either in a museum, train station or similar – They are never in their pyjamas though.

Every now and then you see someone smoking a ridiculously large pipe. They are about two foot long and wooden, it’s probably only tobacco but they seem unnecessarily large. The first time we saw one we were just casually having coffee about eight in the morning, when this guy took a hit on his great big bong  and jumped on his moped to drive the wrong way up a one way street, on the pavement. Standard Hanoi driving.

People are really keen to get as much as possible onto bicycles or motorbikes. In just a few days we’ve seen people transporting pot plants, panes of glass, not one, but four coat stands, about thirty brooms and my personal favourite was the woman who had so many mugs attached to her bicycle you could barely spot the bicycle under them.

Cycle rickshaw drivers just don’t understand. They don’t understand that you might just like to walk somewhere and not go at walking speed, in something that looks like a felt lined wheelbarrow.

Small green spaces are not for recreation or leisure. They are for scooters to use as shortcuts and junction dodging. Also, and oddly some people on scooters stop at junctions and lights and others don’t. I don’t understand the rules, and I’m not sure why there are markings on the roads, when no one pays any attention to them.

TIP : Sometimes in the evenings, you have to be vigilant of projectiles. I’ve noticed that people like to throw their rubbish bags out of their windows. One day I would like to see one hit a rogue scooter rider ignoring the Highway Code.

 

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