We spent 4 days in the old quarter of Hanoi, soaking up the atmosphere and seeing the sights. We strolled around the backstreets, each dedicated to certain things, silk street, blacksmith street, shoe street, toy street etc. And visited the historical sites starting at the lake in the centre of the old quarter. It is said that in the 15th century the king received a sword from the heavens that helped him to drive out the Chinese. Then a giant turtle appeared in the lake and took the sword from the king to return it to the gods. Since there has been several sightings of large turtles in the lake and even a 250kg one captured which is now on display. In the middle of the lake was a nice temple dedicated to this story which also featured in the water puppet show we went to that evening.
The water puppets are famous in Hanoi, an art that has been practiced for over 1000 years. It was a really good experience to go and watch them. There is a little pool at the front of the theatre and the puppeteers hide behind a bamboo screen and control the puppets by a big underwater stick.
We also visited the first university in Vietnam called the Temple of Literature. It was founded in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius. It was really nice, lots of very old architecture and records of students and exams. Very interesting.
Unfortunately we visited at the time of year that Ho Chi Minh's body is sent from his mausoleum to Russia for 'maintenance' but we still got to go to the museum. It was a really strange museum. Alot of contemporty art and stuff that didn't really seem to relate to Ho Chi Minh..... or maybe we just didn't understand it. But it's very interesting to see the Vietnamese people's deep respect and admiration to him. Also in this area is the presidential palace, Ho Chi Minhs simple stilt house and a temple called One Pillar Pagoda which is also a very important place in Hanoi.
We decided to do a day trip out to the country to a place called Perfume Pagoda. It was about 2 hours from Hanoi on the bus. When you get there a lady from the village rows you 1 hour down the river to the place where you can climb up the hill to the pagoda. Now, Vietnam is known to backpackers for its scams and already we have witnessed quite a few of them but this one is one of the best so far. They have just put in a cable car to the top of the mountain and we did know about it but we wanted to climb the hill instead. It had rained quite heavily the night before, and when we arrived the path leading up to the pagoda had turned into a waterfall. Now there was a little too much water to believe it was all from the rain and we were advised it was basically impossible to climb the path so Dianne went up the cable car and about 8 of us decided to climb. The climb up was fine, apart from where we got off the boat there wasn't much water around. We visited the pagoda which really wasn't all it was cracked up to be, we have defiantly seen better in Thailand and we all then walked back down. We had lunch then went to visit another temple which was basically where all the water was coming from and what do you know they had these big fish ponds that all the water was coming out of. It was quite late in the day and we were the last tourists there and all of a sudden a monk comes out and opens up a drain and all the water starts to flow down the drain instead of down the stairs....... nice ploy to get everyone to take the cable car! Ah you have to laugh
I think i have mentioned this everywhere but you would not believe how cheap the beer is here! It has to be the cheapest so far. 1 beer off the street costs 2000 dong which is like 15 cents! Its crazy! We had an awesome dinner off the street where we got to sit around a little hot plate and cook up our own meat, onion and tomato for our rice. It was fun and so nice, though i don't know what Dianne thinks about all this street food!