Hanoi - Chinese New Year
Trip Start Jan 23, 2013
181Trip End Jul 23, 2013
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The alarm woke us at 09:00. Both of us felt we could have slept on, but don't want to miss breakfast.
At breakfast we, shared a table with another English couple about our age, who were almost at the end of their travels. They had worked their way up the East coast of Vietnam, so we were able to pick up some useful tips.
After breakfast we contemplated the days moves. Having seen most of the main sights the previous day, we decided we would just wander around and maybe find somewhere to sit and take in the atmosphere. The weather seemed a little warmer but we still wore long trousers and fleeces
Before long we found ourselves in crowds of people who were all dressed in their Sunday best clothes. This surprised us as we had been given the impression from guide books and the Internet, that nobody would be about. We joined many local people in the Quan Thanh Temple, where the smell and smoke from burning incense was almost overpowering. The Vietnamese burn incense for their deceased family members; they believe they must treat them well otherwise bad things will happen to them. This probably explains why they leave things like tins of biscuits, fruit and veg at the shrines.
We walked on to visit the Tran Quoc Pagoda and shrine which once again, was heaving with people. This is one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam; it dates back to 1842. Terry and I were not sure we were looking at the right Pagoda, as it didn't look that old. All around the Pagoda were small temples billowing smoke from incense burning. The thick smell was making me feel quite sick, so we had to leave.
We walked back down to Temple of Literature as had been advised that it was open today. Sure enough, the place was teaming with people. We stood in a queue and got out 20.000.00 Dong for admission. When we got to the front of the queue we were asked to pay 20.000.00 Dong each as we were 'foreigners'. We didn't have 40.000.00 Dong, but offered Dollars to the value instead. The lady taking the money completely ignored us and just kept letting locals in in front of us. She was so bloody rude, I told Terry to put the money away, and we left. This seems to be quite common practice in SE Asia, locals pay one amount and 'foreigners' pay a premium
Walking on I felt like I needed something sweet, so we stopped at a KFC for a drink. We sat upstairs and watched the madness of the traffic below. The KFC was filthy, you could hardly see out of the windows as they were so grubby and the loos were disgusting. Colonel Saunders would have had a fit with his leg up if he had visited.
After our drink we went to see the Flag Tower. This place was built between 1805 and 1812 under King Gia Long and is over 2 centuries old. It resembles an old stone fortress and has steps leading to the top. We sat in an open air Highland Coffee restaurant for a while and chilled out with a couple of subway type rolls, fries and a coffee. When we finished we walked to have a better look at the Flag Tower and came across real planes, tanks, helicopters and the like. We realised we had walked in to an 'open area' of a Military Museum. All the aircraft on show had been shot down or captured during the war with the USA. Walking out of the area after having a good mooch around, we saw a notice saying 'authorised personnel only' (whoops). This was probably because the actual museum was closed for New Year. I wasn't all that bothered, we'd probably seeing the best bits anyway.
We walked back to the Hotel to have a rest and think about what to do next. We had booked a 3 day, 2 night cruise to Halong Bay but needed to decide whether to go on to Sapa (North), or whether to head South to Hue. The latest reviews on Sapa were not exactly enticing; they reported that it was cold and muddy, and that the rice paddies were brown as the rice hadn't been planted yet. According to all the recent reviews it was not how it looked in the pictures, so we decided to give it a miss. Tomorrow we would look at ways of getting to Hue, probably on the train.
In the evening we walked across the road to the little cafe we visited the first night we Arrived in Hanoi. It was full of extremely rowdy French people, and we both felt sorry for the timid waiters. We shared some Pancake Rolls, Vegetable Fried Rice and a Beef with Ginger and Onions, which came with steamed rice; we also had a beer each. The bill came to 245.000.00 Dong, and we wondered whether we had been screwed, but when we worked it out, it was just over $11, or £7.50. I didn't think we would ever get used to this money!