Monday, 19 May 2014

Ha Noi Cultural Discoveries

Monday 19/05

City Tour and History Museum

We decided to discover a few cultural aspects of Hanoi. We had received free tickets for the Vietnam History Museum from the friendly receptionist at our backpackers so we thought that would be a good place to start.
On our walk there we met one of the local pastry sugar ball sellers (one of Roxy's weaknesses)

We stopped to take pics of the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is made of limestone and because of the acid rain in the city, it is slowly eroding with the passing of every year!


We walked past the Hoam Kiem Lake, the lake within the centre of the old quarter.

The topiary was so convincing that Joy felt the need to offer it the deer some food!

Our next stop was the Opera House. The French influence in Hanoi is very evident in both the architecture and cuisine.

Roxy demonstrating her cultural side with some classy ballerina positions!

The Vietnam History Museum contained two floors with an amazing statue garden surrounding it. We even witnessed a martial arts training session. We were eagerly watching the impressively co-ordinated kata, until they turned around and caught us spying and awkwardly stared at us until we moved away. (Roxy didn't feel the need to whip out her black-belt karate moves)


Joy looking utterly impressed and Roxy just looking purely impressive

We were pushing the limits of what we could get away with by 'not touching' the exhibit.

This is just a section of a very beautiful and ornate wardrobe decorated with mother of pearl. The carving was so intricate that we had to go back for a second look (it may also have been that we were trying to avoid a group of Chinese rice-wine-soaked tourists).

On our way home, we stopped in the park to enjoy watching an intense soccer match of 12 year olds, some rebellious teenagers skateboarding and some rather interesting photo shoots. We also made friends with a young child who found great delight in trying to put the cap back onto our water bottle. It was only 15mins of playing that her father swooped in and rescued her from the tourists.

Roxy imitating a statue in the park.

20/05 Tuesday

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Museum and One Pillar Pagoda

We decided to save a few rands and walk to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. It was quite a distance away from our hostel, not to mention the fact that in order to be allowed entry into the Mausoleum, you have to be appropriately dressed (which means covering your shoulders and knees - not ideal trekking attire in the 40 degree heat). As soon as we entered the area near the Mausoleum, we could immediately feel the security tighten. There were armed guards every 20 metres. We were ushered in to a single file line and had our bags scanned (our mid-day snack of bananas was confiscated) and we were told in no uncertain terms that cameras were not to be used inside.

We then waited in single file, within the red lines and had to remove all sunglasses and hats as we proceeded in silence to the viewing room. We could definitely feel an air of respect and reverence of all the people around us as the Vietnamese clearly love and wish to honour the memory of 'Uncle Ho' who had recently just celebrated his 124th birthday. For his age...he is looking very good! 

We ventured around to find the Ho Chi Minh Museum. There were hardly any other tourists in the Museum as it appeared to be mainly for locals. There were many school groups and a lot of the exhibits only appeared in Vietnamese.

Posing with Uncle Ho (our friendly photographer skillfully managed to crop out a girl who kept asking to take photos with the foreigners)

Roxy reclaiming the mythical sword from the turtle, which helped a Vietnamese king fend against Chinese domination.

It was a rather artistic museum as all the exhibits were displayed in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.

Roxy taking a seat at the fruit buffet table (although none of it is unique to Vietnam and were weren't quite sure what it had to do with Ho Chi Minh)

We saw on our map that the One Pillar Pagoda was near by so we decided to check it out. Unfortunately what we did not know was that it had been destroyed just before the French gave up occupation of Vietnam and was still in the process of being restored!

Roxy posing with a statue of Lenin in the park. This was just before we bought our Vietnamese phrase-book which we managed to haggle down to 110 Dong apposed to the asking price of 250 Dong.


Aerobics in the Park

After hearing the fable that people wake up at 5am to do exercise in the parks along the lake, we decided to have an early night (much to our French friend, Jeremy's disgust as it was his last night) and wake up with the sun and try our hand/hips at an aerobics session.
It was so amazing to see so many people of all ages, running cycling, playing badminton, yoga and tai chi. We even spotted a bunch of elderly ladies giving an impromptu hip hop class to 'Gangnam Style.' Our 45 minute session left us sweating and feeling the burn! Great way to start the day! 

Jeremy, our French friend, who bought us ice-cream (he is the best)


Roxy caught a chest infection in the dorm so she had to rest for the day. Joy caught up on a little admin (updating the blog) and tended to the patients needs (ie. foraged for food). There were no cultural activities today but Joy ventured out with some room mates for free beer and even tried the popular Weasel coffee. Weasels eat the coffee beans (the digestive juices enhance the flavour of the coffee) which once excreted from the animal, are cleaned, roasted, pecolated and served! Quite delicious!!! 

FRIDAY 23/05

Museum of Ethnology

On the hottest day in the existence of creation we went to visit the Ethnology Museum. We were travelling to Sa Pa that night so we wanted to learn a little about the Ethnic groups in Vietnam before arriving there. Roxy was still feeling a little under the weather so we took a taxi instead of walking the 10kms in the blistering heat.
Roxy looking as scary/deathly as the lion heads she is imitating

This is not fake...there is a bicycle under there and we can personally attest to the fake that it is physically possible to carry such a load on two wheels

Spot the difference

Joy displaying her good health alongside the tree of healing (let's hope some of its power rubs off on Rox)
There were no air conditioners in the museum so even though we put on brave faces and struggled through the displays and information boards, I'm not sure how much information was actually retained!

It was back to our backpackers to prepare for our over night bus to Sa Pa!!

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