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Monday, June 11, 2012

N Vietnam 2012 - Day 1, Part 3 - Hanoi

"The ultimate test of a relationship is to disagree but hold hands." - Alexander Penney

***

N Vietnam 2012
Day 1 - 24th May - Hanoi
(Part 3)

I then decided to try to get to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum.

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??? structure

Unfortunately there was a construction site separating me from it.

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Mausoleum

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Curiously bilingual site safety regulations. You're not supposed to "arguing, drinking, using stimulant, gambleing, prostituing, affecting to public and building security"


Vietnamese people doing taichi

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Sign of that ??? structure

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More of ??? structure

So I took an alternative route to the mausoleum.

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ATM wedged in between two buildings

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Bicycle stacked with stuff

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Mausoleum across field where Vietnamese people were exercising

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Mausoleum
In an example of a more recent cultural import from China than their china, there were, again, Vietnamese men lifting the front of their shirts, exposing their bellies.

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People walking in front of Mausoleum

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Mausoleum. Notice the many guards.

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"No entry
禁止进去"
I love Vietnamese Mandarin

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Better Mandarin: "勿走此道"


Communist marching by soldiers

I observed some soldiers casually crossing the road. They were talking, so it wasn't marching, but they were also walking in step (and swinging their arms from side to side in rhythm).

I had considered visiting the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, but I'd seen Mao in Beijing, and he'd killed a lot more people so he ranked higher on the Dictator Scale. Besides, I didn't have that much time.

Next was the One-Pillar Pagoda.

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No shorts "when coming into the [p]agoda"

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One Pillar Pagoda

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Pagoda

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Poster on monk procession

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In front of the pagoda

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Altar behind pagoda

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Closeup

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Woman walking in front of mausoleum

I was crossing the road at a zebra crossing, and a taxi came at me horning and flashing its lights. What do zebra crossings mean in Hanoi? This demonstrated the Vietnamese rule of the road I'd read about: the larger vehicle has right of way. Curiously, motorcyclists were nicer to me (maybe because hitting me would damage their motorcycles as well).

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People playing badminton. This was a good sidewalk to play it - there were lots of trees on one side, and on the other one could tie the net. On the floor there were regular tiles to measure court size by. I counted 4 others on this stretch of sidewalk.

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I stopped at a cafe to get a taste of Hanoi's "cafe culture". Unfortunate it was closing even though it was only 6:35pm. Hmmph.

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I quite liked this street, but a soldier shouted at me "no camera!". The area to the left is a military compound. Poor people living on the right.

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"ipap" - the latest Apple Device for Girls

Near my hostel, I had dinner.

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The fresh spring roll I had was alright (I couldn't find the animal in it) but the sauce wasn't really piquant, even though it had a squirt of chili sauce inside.

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Banh Mi. It was a lot better, though the bread was quite chewy (it was slightly flaky, possibly dueto the charcoal). The coriander (I think; from the plastic bag) was a nice foil to the chicken.

The answers to "guess how much my food cost" are at the end of the post.

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"Hi friends cafe"
You need money to have friends

After resting a while in my room, I set out again. I asked the receptionist what tourists usually did at night. The answer: drink beer, drink local beer, watch water puppets, go down to the lake. I don't drink beer (and anyway heard the local beer wasn't so good) so I decided on the last.

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Fashion for amputees

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Bugjo adhesive. Is that a stylised Merlion?

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"Bienvenue"

I saw a place were many people were eating fruit salad, so I got one.

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Avocado and tropical fruits mmm. I thought they forgot to put condensed milk, but it was at the bottom. Oops.

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Pandemonium. Also note the balloon vendors. And Vietcong Bank.

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What KFC stands for in Vietnam: "Ga Ran Kentucky"

There was a funny smell coming from Hoan Kiem lake. Despite this, there was a couple dangling their legs in it. I was tempted to push them in.

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Hanky panky in background

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Pavilion on water

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Bent tree

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Temple Gate. Yes, it reminds me of a Chinese temple too.

Strangely, there were many groups dancing around the lake. There was line dancing and Latin dancing.


Line dancing

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Squad of Dancers

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Neon sign on island with a temple. Uhh.
The full line is possibly "Song, chien dau va hok tap theo guong bac ho vi dai", translated as "Song, fight and hok silver mirror or tap the long range"


Latin dancing

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"Bye bye fever" brand cooling pad

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We love Uncle Ho, and Uncle Ho loves Children. Notice that it says 1890-2012 - maybe this is why they preserve his body, as the Eternal Leader.

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Minitower

There was a tower in the middle of the lake. Not only was it quite run down, it was impossible to get to. At first I wanted to call it pathetic, but after consideration I thought it had once had a majestic aspect, so I upgraded it to sad.

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Tortoise Tower

Despite travel advice about not engaging in PDA (public displays of affection) around the lake there were many couples with their bodies close to each other. I didn't see groping but there were long cuddles, and one couple was close to or in a kissing posture.

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Looking at the sad tower

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Cathay Life sponsored the benches around the lake, apparently. All of them had its name on them.

I was feeling a bit peckish so when I saw a place selling some snacks I homed in on it.

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Leftovers

I homed in on "Banh Sung Bo", which I took to be a Vietnamese curry puff. Actually it was a pathetic excuse for a croissant, one of the worst I'd ever had.

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"Truc Bach. The finest beer of Vietnam. Export"
Maybe they export it to Laos - I'd certainly never heard of it.

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Balloon vendors again

Walking back to my hostel I walked down a road called "Nem Chuan Ran" (apparently I transcribed wrongly, as I can't find it online). The whole road had shops selling dried cuttlefish.

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"Hanoi's People Committee. Hanoi Ancient Quarter Management Department"

I bought sugar cane with lime from a roadside vendor. I was quoted 15,000 VND, which was bad enough (as it was approaching Singapore prices of almost S$1). I gave him 50,000 and he returned me 30,000.I looked at him, and he stared at me. I had to show him the hand signal for 5 before he returned me the rest of my change. Bloody crook.

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At night there were motorbikes kept in the hostel corridor - to safeguard them from Vietnamese thieves. Hurr hurr.


The Spring Roll was 10,000 VND, and the Banh Mi 30,000. The fruit salad was 20,000 VND. Possibly I wasn't conned for the last, since I saw a menu on a whiteboard and the top item read 20,000 VND. Since everyone was having the same thing presumably this was the house speciality.

A lot of Vietnamese women wore what looked like bra cups over their mouths. Maybe it was a Vietnamese charm to enlarge their breasts.

I wasn't successful in finding either a wife or Yaw Shin Leong. I think it respectively was because I flipped my hair too much (you can't blame me, it was very hot), and I looked too much like a Singaporean. So I needed to cut my hair and ride a motorbike.


Lest people think I am exaggerating my stories about being swindled, here are some of my favourite anecdotes/points:

- It is widely recognised (e.g. by Guidebooks) that foreigners are overcharged, and indeed such overcharging was state-mandated not too long ago
- One friend got a calculator thrown at her when she bargained
- An ethnic Vietnamese friend raised overseas told me that when they hear his overseas accent, they overcharge him.
- A Vietnamese friend from South Vietnam says that in Hanoi when they heard his Southern accent, they overcharged him. This one takes the cake.

I was actually more blasé about getting ripped off than in the past. In the old days I'd have been plenty indignant. Maybe I'm just getting old.
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