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November 10, 2004


It was with the luck of the Irish that we arrived in Hanoi on their National Day. We were of course oblivious to this fact until we stumbled out of our hotel for dinner at 7pm and noticed that you couldn't see the streets for the people. We pushed our way through the mass of bodies to the edge of Lake Kiem and five minutes later the fireworks began. Now you have to admit that is pretty lucky!

Mental Note 4: Travel with Irish more often!

(We celebrated the Vietnamese's National Day, as all Westerners celebrate their National Day, with one too many beers! I felt glad to be bringing some of our Australia Day culture across the waters as did my Irish companions in bringing theirs. I guess you could just see us as cultural diplomats.)

Hanoi is split into two areas, the old quarter and everywhere else. The Old Quarter is made up of narrow, bustling streets all with individual identities of merchandise. There is sunglasses street, jewelry street, grilled fish street, toy street and many more. If I could only understand Vietnamese street signs, shoping would have been a more organised affair instead of the blind wandering I undertook. During the day, streets were filled with women with coned shaped hats with long poles on their shoulders balancing large bowls of fruit on either end, dodging the trillion billion moving and parked scooters. At night all the shopowners and their families gather round on little toddler's stools, cooking on an a archaic mobile stove, slurping noodles and happily chatting about the days events. The atmosphere was truly one of yesteryear. (The cars and scooters, flashing neon lights of hotels and the occasional ring of a mobile phones, of course gave it away that we were in 2004!)

Expanding our cultural awareness "The Irish Gang" and I attended the Water Puppet Theatre. And as you may have guessed (you bright little bunnies), that involved puppets over a lake of water. The show was made up of a number of skits portraying Vietnamese life, both mythological and all to the music and voiceovers (generally screaching or hilarious laughter) of Vietanamese musicians to the side of the stage. The puppets were brightly coloured with mischievous, cheeky grins. The type of grin you are not sure to smile back at or to back off from. If I had had a square inch left in my backpack, I would have bought one. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, not understanding a single a child from mars enjoying watching Sesame Street. The language was universal.

Before leaving for Halong Bay with the "Irish Gang" I had only explored the Old Quarter but on my return I was pleasantly suprised by the surrounding city of Hanoi. One of the great attractions of Hanoi particularlily for the Vietnamese is a visit to see Uncle Ho. Now for you non-history buffs "Uncle Ho" is the affectionate name given to Ho Chi Minh, the great leader of Vietnam from after world War II to the late 70's. As many communist leaders, like Stalin and Chairman Mao, Uncle Ho was embalmed and can be viewed by his many adoring fans in the Grand Ho Chi Minh Maseleoum. Now you won't believe this but Uncle Ho was on tour! Even after death the man keeps a busy schedule! That's right, they move around his body so that other communist comrades around the world can get a glimpse. He is currently in Russian somewhere. (I hope he pops into Australia at some stage, I know we are not communist but I think that he would really like the weather and possibly a dip at one of our many beaches and I also have this feeling that he was a vegemite man.)

Despite his absence, the Ho Chi Minh Mauseleoum and adjoining museum were well worth the visit. Who would have thought that a Picasso exhibit could display the ongoing struggle of the Vietnamese people? Anyhoo, I won't bore you with the details of the other museums I visited, but will say that if you do go to Hanoi they are certainly worth searching out.

There are two types of travellers in Vietnam. There are the North to Southers and the South to Northers like me. This is very useful as a traveller as any research or future xpectatiuons can be easily be supplied by your opposite traveller. (This is of course in addition to all the insightful information supplied in the Bible!) So future travellers of Vietnam, do no be alarmed, just book yourself in to a hostel or cheap hotel at Hanoi or Saigon, bring a note book and paper and you will have your trip planned out in hours!

Posted by Jenni on November 10, 2004 07:37 PM
Category: Vietnam
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