Monday, October 13, 2008

Back to Hanoi

updated on December 3rd...sorry there are repeats in this blog posts of things I already shared. Better twice than not at all.
No, we aren't actually back in the Hanoi but I have other bits and pieces to share about our time in Hanoi.
First...getting lost. VERY EASY TO DO! There are so many little streets and very few of them are on the standard tourist even at a walking is more than easy to know where you are but have no idea how to get to where you are going. Even the taxi and cyclo drivers aren't always on the ball...i think they come from outside of Hanoi and only have a rudimentary knowledge of Hanoi. We spent almost 45 minutes walking and in a taxi trying to find the Press Club restaurant which was literally 2 short blocks from our Hotel. We even had the address written on a piece of paper and the taxi driver got lost. However, sometimes pleasant surprises come out of getting lost. One day we were trying to find a small street that has culinary school where they serve lunch and dinner. It was midday. It was hot. We were hungry. We could NOT figure out where the heck the street was. Apparently very few people in Hanoi know how to read a map because we were sent off in the wrong direction at least once. So finally we were dragging our sorry behinds down a street and I saw a very pretty colonial French style building. Trying to interject a pleasant comment amonst the grumbling ones I said "look at the pretty building (clever conversation had wilted in the heat)". Jerry said, "is it a restaurant?". hmm. IT WAS. The "Au Lac" serving wonderful vietnamese cuisine in a beautiful, graceful, historic setting. lovely. we ate there twice in two days. And not just because it was so good...but because Jerry left his camera there at the end of our first lunch. We didn't figure that out until the morning of the next day. We had the hotel call and wonderfully it was there and we could come and get it. so lunch again! happy with the food, happy with our camera, and impressed by the quality of people in Vietnam (even if they can't read maps...then again my friend Peg can't either and I love her too!). The food at Au Lac was varied and excellent and although not cheap it was reasonably priced and a very good value for quality and quantity.

Turtles. The turtle is one of 4 divine animals in the Vietnamese traditions. He represents longevity and wisdom. The tradition of the founding of Hanoi has to do with a magical turtle in the center of Hanoi (Hoan Kien Lake) who returns a sword to its rightful owner and brings peace to the city. Turtles are often brought to pagodas that reside on lakes or ponds as its considered lucky to release a turtle at a temple. so many pagoda ponds have MANY turtles. And when young men studying to be mandarins in Vietnamese would pass what would essentially be their "doctorate exam " their name would be engraved on large steles that rode on the back of carved turtles at the Temple of Literature. There used to be hundreds of the there are about 80, I think, massed together at the temple of literature. All the turtles are unique and their heads are rubbed smoothe where students would (and still do) rub the head for good luck (Jerry said "their time would be better spent studying harder! ever the professor).

When it rains it pours! yes, indeed. Although we are at the end of monsoon season for the north we had one heck of a rain/thunderstorm one afternoon. Streets flooded (for once I was happy to be riding in the great big bus). Ponchos, plastic tarps, and umbrellas came out from no where. We were just exiting the Water Puppet theatre (described in a later post) to the deluge. I had to remove my shoes because we had to walk through nearly a foot of water to the bus (with the bus driver ferrying us under an umbrella). Motorcycle engines flooded (when they went into too deep of water) and riders were forced to push their motorbikes to higher ground. Hard to imagine what happens when it rains for days here...

Time to go watch the Rays beat the Bosox (sorry Peg...but the score WAS 8 -1 when I came downstairs...its just a statement of fact for the day). And then we are off for a full day excursion to temples, the Perfume River, and the home of a local famous historian. Until next post~

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