Pagoda tour

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Its very strange to be in a Buddhist country during the Christmas holidays. Despite Vietnam being Buddhist there is still a fair amount of decorations going up. I plan to get downtown this weekend and take some photos to show you what I mean. I met a friend for a movie this past weekend at one of the bigger downtown "shopping malls" (Vincom Towers) and the workers were out putting up a huge strand of lights that resembles a Christmas tree and other assorted decorations.
While I was out today I saw more decoration going up but I was on the back of a motorbike and didn't take photo's of it - maybe tomorrow.

Sunday is usually my day of touring around the city but I called my travel agent friend to see if she was in the mood to help me "sight-see". She is a great resource for where to go and how to get there. Its very humorous when she takes me around to tour because she is about the size of a typical 4th grader - short even by Vietnamese standards. The disparity in height is quite noticeable and my height is ignored while she gets a lot of questions on her height which she handles very well considering all the attention she gets.

I requested to go to Yen Phu village which is within the Hanoi city limits. I didn't realize I was going thru it weekly on my way to yoga. I asked to go because its known for at one time being a huge center for the making of incense. I found out today that the reason for so much incense making was the high concentration of temples and pagodas for a relatively small area. So there are many photos of pagodas and temples today but unfortunately I didn't take a pen and paper like I usually do so I don't remember the names or the history on any of them. They still are nice to look at and admire for the detail in bas reliefs, sculpture and general overall architecture.

My Vietnamese, though still quite limited, is improving enough where I can now request things in Vietnamese that I want and not have to point and grunt like I used to. Today I sat down at one of the many tea stands, asked for hot tea and a sweet cookie-like wafer that I so enjoy eating with tea. I also requested a second glass but I forgot the most important thing to ask prior to ordering - how much does it cost? When I forget to ask, it usually costs me more than the Vietnamese are charged. Sometimes only slightly higher like today while other times it is quá đắt (pronounced duck qwa) or in English 'too expensive'. If I ask and its too high I can bargain it down to something fair, but if I don't, I'm at their mercy. Today it was only a few cents more but last weekend I got gouged for an exorbitant price but it was my fault. I have a weakness for the little old women thinking they will be fair ha ha ha, they are the toughest ones on me. I think they are the most experienced in helping westerners part with their money. I mean yes it seems like nothing at all when you look at the price in US terms but I'm not in the US and I have to think like the Vietnamese when I hit the streets. I'm getting better but I still slip occasionally. It was also nice because I was able to comment on the weather with an old gentleman sitting near me. It was a simple conversation but nonetheless it was interaction. What did I say?  "It's gotten colder,hasn't it?" To which he replied, "yes". Then he asked, in English, if I wanted a cigarette.
It has gotten colder here and in the photos you will see me in a sweater and scarf. Actually its nowhere near the kind of cold you are seeing (and feeling) back home but its still cool enough to have two layers on and a scarf. I really only feel the cold when I'm riding on the motorbike, otherwise I'm usually warm but its easier to wear than to carry. 

Happy Holidays to all my friends and family. 

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