After nearly three weeks we have made our way from busy Saigon all the way up the coast to Vietnam’s equally busy capitol, Hanoi. While here we dodged motos at street crossings, took strolls around the lake, and encountered a few scams that we deemed Hanoiances.
The city itself is quite beautiful; there are many trees and plants, and if you’re up early enough you can witness many elderly locals doing their morning stretching and booty shaking routines near Hoam Kien lake. The area around the lake is called the Old Quarter, and many backpackers, restaurants, and shops enhabit the area. Hanoi is our second last stop in Vietnam and like most large cities we explore the cheap temples, wats, and museums while doing a whole lot of walking around and getting lost. Our interest was most intrigued by the Temple of Literature, a five courtyard display of tributes and epitaphs in honour of historic scholars, and to encourage others along the educated path.
We breifly visited the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum but did not actually venture inside to see his body. Ho Chi Minh was the leader of the communist independent movement, an influencial figure in helping defeat the French occupation, and warmly known as Uncle Ho. His face is on every bank note, many posters and framed photos around the country, and the city of Saigon was renamed after him – Ho Chi Minh City.
There were a few instances in Hanoi that we were less than pleased with; the occasional vendor would short change us (luckily our math was quick), and a valuable quick dry towel disappeared when the guesthouse did our laundry. The worst (and retrospectively funniest) of all annoyances though is when a shoe repair man took the sandals right off of Alistair’s feet. As we walked along the street a young man pointed at Alistair’s feet, curious to see if he stepped in something he paused to inspect. Without a moments hesitation the young man was sticking superglue in the cracks of his well worn sandals, surprised and confused we denied his services but he was persistant and continued his work. As we tried to walk away he slipped the sandal right from Alistair’s foot and began to stich the sides in efforts of reinforcement. We still pleaded no but were not agressive enough and the yound man then started glueing a new heel on the sandal. We were at a loss of words and still in shock but continued to say “stop, we don’t want the repairs”, when just then, another shoe repair man forced the other sandal off Alistair’s foot to make the same repairs. We should have physically grabbed the sandal from their hands, but physical assersion was not our first instinct. They asked a ridiculously high price that we argued down, and you can bet that we learned our lesson.
With ”good as new” sandals, our next and last stop in Vietnam is an overnight trekking tour in the Northern town of Sappa, where cascading rice paddies and the truely cultural H’mong villagers await us.