Knocking Off Fears

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
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Flag of Vietnam  , Ha Nội,
Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday was a highly eventful day for me on several levels – I overcame my fear of two things. I set my goal, went for it and achieved it.

Several weeks ago when I first started back riding a motorbike I decided it would take me X amount of weeks to start riding without training wheels, so to speak (riding on traffic-less roads). So yesterday was the end of my training – I realized I wouldn't truly overcome my fear until I just did it. I felt confident on the handling portion of the bike but the true test would be actually encountering all the make believe situations I had practiced might occur. My bike was at school so I got their late morning and did some planning. Then Jin, my Singaporean friend who has been working with me on driving "safely" showed up about noon. I got on the bike and brimming with confidence I cranked up the engine and rode thru the school gates and out onto the street. It felt good but I did a couple easy laps around the block where the traffic is lighter before jumping up unto the main street, Kim Ma. Kim Ma is one of the main streets in Hanoi, running the length of Hanoi from my district (Cau Giay) to I deep into the Old Quarter. As a comparison its similar to Montgomery Rd in Cincy except Kim Ma is twice as wide and 4 times more busy, including bikes coming from all directions despite the tree lined divide. Throw in a few pedestrians crossing at random junctures, bicycles, buses, cars, trucks and U-turns happening on a regular basis. I think you get the picture of the confusion of Kim Ma (actually its on all the streets here). So I jump up onto this street and it felt like I had been riding for years. I did a few blocks on the mean streets then a few left turns into traffic, got lost for a moment (gotta get a map) and then we decided to grab lunch and drive to the war museum and Flag Tower to meet my travel agent friend, Hang.

The Army Museum is its actual name but I think it got nicknamed the war museum because it describes in detail the war history of Vietnam and encompasses the armed struggle of the Vietnamese people. So here are the basic facts as best as I can remember regarding the Army Museum and Flag Tower. The Army Museum displays a rather intense and interesting history of the Vietnam War under the leadership of Vietnam's communist party and of president Ho Chi Minh. The Hanoi Flag Tower (Vietnamese is a national historic cultural monument and shares the adjoining ground with the Army Museum. Unlike many other structures in Hanoi, the Flag Tower was not destroyed during the French administration (1896-1897).The construction of the 33 meter (or about 105 ft) high Flag Tower was completed in 1812 . The Flag Tower was used by French troops as an observation tower and communication station. It is comprised of three platforms and a tower. The words Nghenh Huc meaning "to welcome dawns light" are inscribed on the eastern door. The western door bears the words Hoi Quang, meaning "to reflect light" and the southern door, Huong Minh meaning "directed to the sunlight". The tower receives sunlight through the 36 flower shaped and 6 fan shaped windows

The War Museum display. is primarily comprised of maps, scale models, military weapons and personal belongings of individuals associated with war and one of the nicest parts of the museum is that all the displayed items are accompanied by English translations. This I can tell you is not always the case but many museums are beginning to add a translation. A fascinating thing for me were the displays of a wide collection of military waste including a Mig fighter, anti aircraft missiles, tanks, and a remarkable heap of wreckage from a US B52 bomber, a French prop driven plane and the tank that exploded through the gates in Saigon during the battle for liberation. World history I have always found fascinating and the first half of today had been interesting.
Once we finished climbing to the top of the Flag Tower we walked over to Highlands coffee for a cool drink. The temps here in Hanoi jumped significantly this week so many people were in shorts and t-shirts. I realized fairly quickly that the cool morning air was gone and my long sleeved shirt and jeans were too much clothing. Fortunately I wore a t-shirt underneath but a cool drink was still in order. We relaxed with cool fruit drinks and pondered the rest of our sunny & warm day. 

So, one fear had been released… the beginning of a level of comfort on the motorbike. A second fear to conquer was still to come later that day.
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Comments

kwai_chang
kwai_chang on

From the swords to the cannon to the tower to the missles, isn't it amazing how phallic war really is. I don't think I ever realized that until this entry. And congratulations! You're now a full-fledged biker dude! Now you just need to get a couple of tatoos!

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