Hello from Hanoi

Trip Start Sep 24, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, March 24, 2007

Arrived in Hanoi at 4:30 a.m. yesterday after a14 hour train ride from Danang, where I spent a couple of hours touring the Cham Museum after my bus ride there from Hoi An, about 45 minutes away. The bus stopped at Marble Mountain for everyone to be bombarded by souvenir sellers who each sell the same thing from identical stalls, side by side.
Shared sleeper compartment with a man!, an a woman, both Vietnamese. He spoke some English and she none at all (they were not related). She and I had bottom bunks. They served a hot meal on the train (included inprice of $39 US), consisting of soup, rice, an unidentifiable meet and some chicken chop suey type. Car was not full.
Was bombarded upon arriving by motorcycle taxis and regular taxis (theyover charge foreigners so they really like us) and since it was raining I took a regular taxi to the guesthouse I had prebooked -the NGOC Minh on Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, in the old city.  Arrived and the guesthouse was dark, but banging on the door brought a guy to life who was sleeping on the floor along with another 'guard.' By the way, guesthouse said they would pick me upat train but guard forgot.  Got a room but it is a double, very nice overlooking the busy street but with balconyand I am paying more than I would like - $22 US.  Last night went to drink beer down the street where little chairs are lined up and for 2000 dong (15 cents) you get a glass of Hanoi beer, verygood.  The older German lady I met in Hue advised me this is where she and her friend hung out and reallyenjoyed the ambience, watching the busy street, with mainly other tourists.  I sat beside a woman last night who it turns out has been to Inuvik! and spent 9weeks in Yukon mainly wiht a friend who is a GP there.  She is a GP in Germanyand loves northern Canada and hopes to goback, even to work!  ANd then we were joined by a woman from Sydney Aust. who motorcycles all over the world and works as the Manly Harbour Master for SydneyFerries, and this is just after Katrin from Germany said her other favourite place, where she did a medical locum, was Australia!  So it was a bizarre little evening and we took a pic with her camera and she will send to me. She and her friend (who got dengue fever here and was in bed!)were heading back to Germany today.
I went on a citytour todayand expected one of those tour buses but it turns out there were only 5 of us and so we taxiied everywhere witha guide who kept having to call a taxi and getting one to pull up in this horrid traffic and crossing streets walking is an exercise in sheer terror. I wouldl ike the city if it had some rapid transit like inBangkok. The temp is great, a lot cooler than what I have been experiencing for 3 months (my half way gone date was yesterday, by the way, Mar. 22!) Anyway aside from amixup where to meet the guide after visiting Ho Chi Minh's tomb, we had a pretty good day, included a good lunch, all for $15 US. The other people (mother and son from Canada, woman (she works in management for a plastic factory in Bangkok and we are going to hook up when I get backt here, and niece from Thailand) all went to the Water Puppet Theatre at 2:30 but i had a full day tour ticket so the young guide, Tuuy, and I walked around the lake, he practised his English with me by reading what he had downloaded from the Hanoi tourism webiste of the places we visited (one pillar pagoda, Temple of Literature  (The Temple of Literature ( Van Mieu ), dedicated to Confucius, was founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong. In 1076, Vietnam's first university was established here to educate Vietnam's administrative and warriors class. Parts of the university date from this earlier time period although the large complex has undergone many changes over the centuries. But recent archaeological study indicates that the architecture of this site belongs primarily to the Ly (1010-1225) and Tran (1225-1400) Dynasties. The complex is in a tranquil park-like site in the heart of central Hanoi. The progression is essentially axial from the entrance gate to the central temple sanctuary), and West Lake.
and about the water puppets (I am going on Monday) and by asking me questions about my life, like "why are you travelling alone, and what do you do in the evenings?".  He graduated from University as an IT Programmer but likes tour guiding more as he gets to travel, meet people and makes more money! He was verycharming, was my shield crossing the street, and gave me a ride on his motorcycle back to my guesthouse. Bythe way, there is aguy here orig. from Vietnam who lives in Vancouver now and his family own this guesthouse and he is here visiting. He is a professional poker player in Canada and was giving me tips on how to be a good poker player. I said it's it just to  "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em and know when to walk away?" Who doesn't know that? but we talked about the psychology of it and reading body language etc.
Tomorrow I am going to a mall to a Vietnamese movie filmed in Hoi An, called the Long White Dress and make plans to go on an 3 day, 2 night overnight cruise onHalong Bay for $40 US.  Then I think I must come back to Hanoi and I'll go north to Sapa, near the Chinese border.
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