Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hanoi's buildings tend to be narrow at the front and long in length due to the tax being based on how wide the building is, this gives rise to some pretty funky looking buildings but also causes a bit of grief when stumbling down the narrow stairs of your hotel still half asleep.

As soon as I hit the streets of Hanoi I was on the search for one of Hanoi's famous baguettes (guess the French did some good while they were here) after suffering withdrawal symptoms due to the lack of good bread or sandwiches of any type in China. Settling for a plain baguette to begin with I soon topped it off with a ham toastie in a little road side cafe as I watched the endless streams of motorbikes whizz pass.

Not all of them speed past though as you get calls of "Motorbike?" at every turn by the many motorbike taxi drivers constantly hounding you where ever you walk in the city. In this heat though it probably would have been a better idea to take one rather than struggle on foot over to the Ho Chi Minh Museum which by the time I got there I was just interested in finding some cool shade as I was still adjusting to this whole high humidity thing.

The museum gave me my fill of propaganda for the day as the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was closed today, probably due to a visit to Madame Tussauds. Near by was another few sights I quickly checked out including the one pillar pagoda, famous for its pillar, and the Presidential Palace after ducking away from another army of Moto drivers - "Need Moto?"

From one former Communist leader to another I wandered down past a statue of Lenin towards the Temple of Literature, "Motorbike you need?", which I was glad of a short musical performance that was playing mainly for the heaps of fans creating a cooling breeze throughout the building.

Still needing a baguette fix I headed over the road for a tasty tuna baguette before walking some more to the Ho Lo Prison Museum otherwise known as the "Hanoi Hilton" by the American POWs kept here during the war. The prison had a number of displays and information about its history and showed that compared to the way the French treated the Vietnamese they held here the Americans really did have it good.

Continuing my walking tour around the city, "Motorbike quicker than walk, very cheap.", I wandered around the Hoan Kiem Lake situated in the Old Quarter which is a handy landmark to help you navigate your way around the areas maze of little streets. The old quarter is a really bustling and lively place to wander around filled with hundreds of little shops and streets all named after what product was originally sold in them such as "Hang Da" for leather goods or "Hang Mam", pickled fish, guessing it was never the best smelling street in the area. "You want Moto?"

In another cunning attempt to lighten the amount of Dong I was carrying, Dong being the Vietnamese currency so stop your sniggering, I was stopped by a girl carrying pineapples in her quang ganh or shoulder baskets as I wondered how such little women can often seem to carry loads twice as big as they were. I soon found out however as she quickly put her hat on me and handed me her baskets wanting to take a photo of me standing completely flummoxed in the middle of the street. Clearly a crafty ploy to get me to buy something from her I didn't mind as I did feel like having some pineapple just then but her asking price of 150,000 dong for a few pieces of pineapple was almost as funny as they way I probably looked standing there wearing her garb. With a bit of haggling I soon had the price down to just 10,000 which she also seemed happy with so began to wonder what she would have done if I'd paid her original asking price.

"Yes it is, well done"

After filling up with some grub I ended up spending the evening sitting on another plastic stool again with a couple of Vietnamese drinking Bia Hoi or draught beer which can be found everywhere in the city. One of them was actually living in Australia now and had developed a really strong accent such that the other guy could not understand him when he spoke English so I had to translate, with the roles being reversed when he spoke Vietnamese, after a few more rounds though it was the bia hoi doing most of the talking.
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