Hanoi - Bikes Everywhere!!!

Trip Start Nov 21, 2007
Trip End Oct 01, 2008

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Flag of Vietnam  , Hanoi,
Friday, April 25, 2008

Hanoi is a very busy and chaotic city. The name means "the city on the bend of the river." It is also famous for its french influence in architecture and food as well as the tree lined boulevards and inner city lakes. Something else that adds to the chaos is motorbikes...there are over 5 million people and just about 4 million motorbikes! We had a contest to see what was the craziest thing hauled on the back of a bike. They are very creative in their capabilites.

We visited the Hanoi Hilton which is the prison where many American pilots were kept as hostages during the Vietnam war (or the American war). John McCain's flight suit is included in the collection. Also, Ho Chi Minh's or Uncle Ho's body is kept in a very well preserved and guarded mausoleum. His body is sent to Russia once a year for maintenance, but we were fotunate to get to see him along with MANY other tourists and locals wanting to pay respects.

The city also has an Old Quarter area which starts at the Hoan Kiem Lake or "Lake of the restored sword". Many people walk around the lake for exercise and romantic walks. The old quarter has MANY shops. You really can get lost in the madness as well as small streets. One of the tourist gatherings is at an intersection called Bia Hoi corner where they sell local beer for 3000 VND (or about 20 cents). You sit on small plastic chairs and watch the world go by. We counted 100 motorbikes going through the intersection in 3 minutes! We also counted 21.5 women wearing pajamas. Seems the locals like the loose fitting clothes with soft material. It was MORE than enough fun and entertainment for one evening. One more location we visited was the Temple of Literature where there are 82 turtles. The locals believe if you touch the head of every turtle your wish will come true! Jana had to give it a go!

Part of our tour included a water puppet show. It was not the highlight of our trip but it was neat to see some of the traditional entertainment and instruments.

We had lunch at a NGO run restaurant too called KOTO, Know One Teach One. This gives local street kids the opportunity to have a place to live, go to school and learn the trade of hospitality so they can earn their own living. The food was great and it was really neat to see all the success stories.

VERY IMPORTANT: Jana got her toes painted very fancy in Hanoi too! Pink polish with black butterflies on each big toe....even with a rhinestone! All for the expensive price of $3.33! The communication was a bit rough with the girl when we were trying to figure out what color of polish but after that we did A-OK!

We had about 2.5 days in Hanoi before catching an overnight train to Hue. We enjoyed pizza and ba ba ba (333 brand of beer) before enjoying a night of sleep.

SIDE STORY:  When we were having beers (for 20 cents!), there were many children running around trying to sell pirated books.  They have NO problem approaching you more than once even after you have said no!  One little boy who was probably about 11 or so was really cute and selling chewing gum and tissues (i think, not really the point of the story).  The first time he walked up.  He placed his plastic basket on Layton's leg and asked us to buy something.  While we were declining, he was tentatively pulling at Layton's leg hairs.  Seems the locals are intrigued by hairy tourists.  He probably came up to us about 5 or 6 times and each time, he would get braver and braver about how much of Layton's hair he pulled.  By the end, he would grab handfuls of his arm hair while talking to us!  So awesome.

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