Finding Balance in Hanoi

Trip Start Oct 14, 2009
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Trip End Jul 01, 2014


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Where I stayed
Hanoi Elegance 2 Hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I am not easily intimidated but the 2 first times I visited Hanoi, I felt overwhelmed by the noise and fumes and traffic. I thought I would not venture out too far. Ms. To Kim Tuyen (Trang) from Indochina Junk's Hanoi office invited me to dinner. We went winding our way through the old quarter of Hanoi to a lovely and interesting Korean style restaurant that serves only fish. Fish, vegetables, and herbs, and the cooking pot were brought to our table. We chose what we wanted, cooked it and ate, and cooked and ate some more! It was really good!

In the morning, Ms. Trang met me again. She asked me if I wanted to drive the scooter. NOT, but check out my favorite photo! This time we went to Pho 24 near the Hoan Kiem lake for a traditional breakfast of Vietnamese noodle soup. After we had coffee by the lake in a lovely cafe. Then I set out with a map for a walk around the lake. It was here that I began to understand the many ways that Hanoians find balance in their lives, even in this busy, frenitic city.

Hoan Kiem means "Lake of the Returned Sword" and it is clearly a focal point for its public life. There is a legend,  that emperor Le Loi handed a magic sword called Heaven's Will which brought him victory in his revolt against the Chinese Ming Dynasty back to the Golden Turtle God (Kim Qui)in the lake. The Tortoise Tower (Thap Ra) standing on a small island near the center of lake is linked to the legend. Near the northern shore there is a small island called Jade Island on which the 18th century Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) stands. It honors the 13-century military leader Tran Hung Dao who distinguished himself in the fight against the Yuan Dynasty. You can see the red wooden Huc Bridge or Morning Sunlight Bridge to the island in my photos!

On my walk I saw several wedding couples. There were schoolchildren with teachers, families relaxing and postcard hawkers too. I met lovely people. I walked a bit in the old city for some quick shopping and hired a cyclo to run me back to the Hanoi Elegance Hotel to get ready for the afternoon.

I had not inquired as to the normal cyclo rates. The cyclo driver asked for 100,000 Dong or about $6 for a 5 minute ride.  I bargained down to 50,000 and agreed, only later to learn that the going rate is 50,000 for an entire hour. Oops,travelers, ask first. And don't go anywhere with the cyclo driver pictured below, just on principle. He is the one who overcharged me!

I had a quick tasty ratatouille crepe at the Tamarind Cafe across from the hotel, and met he tour guide Ms. Trang had arranged for me for the afternoon.

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