Hey. Hope everyone is doing fine and Christina has stopped being shaken up after that big accident.
We got to Hanoi late Wednesday night, January 23, after a 25-hour trip including a five-hour layover in Tokyo. Needless to say, we were pretty tired by the time we unlocked our hotel room at the Indochina Hotel near Hoang Kiem Lake.
The hotel is very new, the staff is friendly but the room is small and our heater was not working too well. It was kind of late to call the clerk so we decided to go ahead and sleep the night away.
The next morning, we met up with Lee's old friend from high school, Thu Ba, who had flown up from Saigon to meet us. She stays in the same hotel and will be our guide for the next several days. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we began touring the City.
We first visited the beautiful Hoang Kiem Lake and the Returned-Sword Temple.
Lee and Thu Ba at Hoan Kiem Lake
Things are so quiet and peaceful here then we went to the Old Quarters.
The Old Quarters is divided up by three dozen different streets and each street has its own special shops. One street has all the shoe stores, another has all the clothing stores, another has the paper products, one has the silk products, one has the flowers, etc… It was fun to check out the different stores. Lee and Thu Ba bought some scarves and I got a sweater for $12 total. Everything is so CHEAP here.
Candy Section in the Old Quarters
Hanoi streets are narrow and scooters, taxi cabs, and busses are flying all over the place. If there were traffic rules here, it's obvious that no one observed them. To walk across the street, you need to be brave. You just need to step into the street and walk at a steady pace and miraculously, traffic would drive around you. Everybody honks and everybody ignores the others. I video taped a short movie of Hanoi dizzying traffic and will post that on YouTube. It's scary and funny at the same time.
After a lunch at a nice noodle restaurant, we went to see more sites. Here in Hanoi, walking and hailing cabs are how tourists get around. Cab fares are usually no more than $3 a ride but you have to haggle with the drivers before you get in the cab. We saw:
One Pillar Pagoda
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where Uncle Ho's dead body is laid in a glass coffin
Van Mieu where the scholars went to study
Hanoi Opera House
West Lake Temple
Ha Noi resembles Paris because it was partially built by the French pre World War II. It does have the French charm and romantic flair.
In the evening, we went to dinner where the only dish on the menu is Hanoi's most famous dish, fried fish or cha ca. The fish was cooked in front of us with different vegetables and herbs. It was excellent.
After dinner, we went to the water puppet show. This is a must-see. The puppets dance on a pool of water and are controlled by a group of puppeteers sitting in the water behind a screen. We went to the 9:15 PM show on a week night and it was full. Lots of foreigners come to see this show.
Today is such a busy day for us but we got to see a lot of Hanoi. Tomorrow, we will take a boat trip to the beautiful Ha Long Bay, one of UNESCO World Heritage sites and I'm looking forward to that. Until then, so long.