Good Morning Vietnaaaaaaammmmmm!

Trip Start Sep 09, 2011
Trip End Jun 29, 2012

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Where I stayed
May de Ville Backpackers Hostel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Driving from the airport to Hanoi... was INSANE. Literally insane. Cars and motorbikes converging from everywhere, turning wherever they wanted, and filling every available space. It was worse than China by a long stretch, and that is saying something! It was a miracle we made it there alive.

Hanoi is the capital city of 'nam, but it's not actually the biggest (Hi Chi Minh has this honour!) ... I would wager that it is the busiest though, as it is crazy busy with traffic. Apparently there are 7 million people in Hanoi... and 6 million motorbikes... If you want to cross the road here you just sort of have to walk out, and the motorbikes drive around you.

We are staying in the old quarter, which is the busiest part with the narrowest roads. Splendid. It's actually very cool, and there are lots of craft and food stalls, as well as some good bars and shops. It's also very central, making it easy to get to the main attractions of Hanoi. Not that we saw any of them on the first night, as we decided to stay in the hostel, order a pizza and watch Bridesmaids in the movie room. Hey, it can't be all new experiences and excitement... that's exhausting!

The evening of the first full night we went to the world famous Water Puppet Show, which was utterly hilarious. There was a kind of stage in front of us that looked like a kind of Asian town house with a water area in front of it, and then these Vietnamese musicians appeared to the side. The Water puppetry was developed in the 12th Century by farmers during the Monsoon seasons, and features wooden puppets, presumably on sticks that are submerged in the water. I don't think it has changed much since then to be honest.

It is in fact a clever little Art form, but some of the puppets were a bit dated and sort of leaned over on one side like they were drunk. They kind of bobbed around and while the other puppets stood up and moved around they just looked like zombies. At one point a puppet man carrying a candle kind of fell forward onto the horse puppet in front of him, which made him look as if he was setting the horse's backside on fire.

All the while during the whole performance, two of the Vietnamese female musicians sort of shouted and sang a kind of folk story, which of course we couldn't understand at all.

It was much funnier than I think it was supposed to be, and I had to stifle my laughter constantly as other people in the audience seemed to be taking it very seriously. I can't imagine that anyone could contain themselves without laughing at some point during the performance, but it would seem some people are made of stone, as the theatre was silent... if you didn't count my muffled snorts of laughter and the Vietnamese screeching musicians.

The following day, after a brilliant buffet breakfast (I love a buffet!), we headed into Hanoi to have a look around. We had wanted to go to see Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body in the Mausoleum, but we found out that every year between October and December the body is shipped to Russia for restoration and repair! So we thought that we would just go to the attached museum, but turned out that it was shut on Fridays... So failure all round really on the Ho Chi Minh front!

Instead we went to the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum... which was sadly a bit of a let down. The traditional Art of Vietnam is just... well... it's just not very good! Some of the ceramics were nice, but nothing compared to the stuff we'd seen in the Shanghai Museum. It made me realise how spoiled we are in Europe with the incredible galleries of work that are available to us.

We did, by chance though, stumble upon a pretty cool photography exhibition of Sibylle Bergemann's work, in the Goethe Institute.

The absolute highlight for me so far in Hanoi though was the Vietnamese Women's Museum, which was absolutely incredible... so much so that I will do a separate entry of interesting stuff I found out there!

Following all of our cultural enriching activity we went to the famous 'Fanny's Ice Cream Parlour' which was brilliant for two reasons. 1) the ice-cream was AMAZING, and 2) we were able to giggle like schoolgirls about all the innuendo's we could come up with involving the name of the place.

Hanoi is a pretty cool city, but am not sure that I would want to spend a lot of time here. Fortunately we have trips planned using Hanoi as a base which should be lots of fun.
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