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Monday, June 25, 2012

N Vietnam 2012 - Day 3, Part 1 - Hanoi

"First you're an unknown, then you write one book and you move up to obscurity." - Martin Myers

***

N Vietnam 2012
Day 3 - 26th May - Hanoi
(Part 1)

I set off early once again, since this was to be my only full day in Hanoi.

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Temple exterior

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The first dogs I'd seen in Hanoi

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Pho Hang Thiec

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Japanese schoolgirl look

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Another street

The receptionist at the hostel had recommended a bun cha place, but it wasn't ready yet so I had something else for breakfast.

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Vietnamese ngor heong guan qiang (fried stuff), bee hoon, Asian basil

By this time, it was easier to just accept that I was inevitably going to be swindled, andnot ponder equity issues.

Normally I would've been alright with stools, but my thighs were still sore from all the walking I'd done on the first day. Luckily the service at this street food stall was good - the vendor noticed I was uncomfortable and put the stool on the five foot way's step for me (so it was higher), and took my umbrella from me too.

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"We can print anything! Ask here!"
I was tempted to ask if they could print "me love you long time"

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Kebab stand. Notice that it's 20,000 VND despite being a foreign food. This should clue you in as to how much I was being overcharged.

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Another temple's facade

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"Free beer
Free breakfast
Free internet
Free wifi
Free tour information"

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"Propaganda poster & painting. Old propaganda & posters"
Appaently "propaganda" doesn't necessarily have negative connotations here

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Ngo Huyen

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Mix & Match: Pho/Bun/Mien/My + Bo/Ga

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Woman eating noodles in mystery soup which looked more interesting than normal pho. It looked like Vietnamese Laksa.

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Another temple. I was able to enter this one.

They were cleaning up after what were presumably morning prayers.

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Framed Buddhas

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Altar

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Altar closeup

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Another altar. Note the biscuit tins.

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Rack for giant fans (?!)

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Calendar in the Chinese style

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Photo of nuns (?) on the wall

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Another altar with monks' photos

At this point they were done cleaning up and were turning off the lights (before 8am?!), but I was done anyway.

This temple was a good fascimile of a Chinese one (with interesting touches like biscuit tins), and not just a Third Rate knockoff.

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Odd menu: "Pillow - Sea Crab
Saltyfried
Sweet Friedcakes
Shrimp crabhacao
Meat pie
Vegetarian pie
Fried sound nem
Beer of oh fferentkinds
Icee tea
beve rage"
Notice the spacing issues again.

I then visited the Saint Joseph Cathedral.

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Black Cathedral. Note to self: do not build a Neo-Gothic Cathedral in the tropics. At least it had no moss like in Lugo

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No French. Hurr hurr.

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Outside walls, with fleur-de-lys

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Three Wise Men

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Grove

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Relief

The interior had 19th century stained glass, which was okay. Other than that it was a pedestrian cathedral, with its only noteworthy feature being that it was a colonial building and in the tropics. Since it was pedestrian, dark and I saw a no photography sign, I didn't bother.

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Benedict XV needs to Force Lightning his photographer, who always manages to catch him in such creepy poses.

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No cameras from 1910 inside the cathedral.

I was still a bit peckish, when I came across a vendor of sweet fried stuff:

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Vendor of sweet fried stuff

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Tea. This was the most outrageous attempt to swindle me yet (see end of post).

It was very crispy and good (the round one had mung bean inside) but OH THE HUMANITY.

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"Free call when you order"

I then made my way to Hoan Kiem lake, this time by morning.

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The sad pavilion: lonely, blackened, with no access to it.

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Woman with a plastic bag on her head (???)

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At night there'd been the LCD marquee below it

By the lake, I got emotionally blackmailed into buying postcards. They were supposedly 150,000 VND for 10. The vendor was a 38 year old whose 2 legs were supposedly missing (he was on a tricycle-like contraption; maybe he was a victim of Agent Orange). Trying to evoke pity, he debased his humanity, pointing to his missing legs. In response, I objectified him and bought his overpriced postcards (which weren't that nice, even, and were slightly worn). After this transaction, I felt dirty inside and resolved not to debase both myself and another human being so (at least during this trip).

I gave the legless vendor US$20 and he tried to give me 200,000 VND in change (cheating me of 50,000 VND). In the end he gave me 230,000 VND and claimed he had no change. Right.

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Red Bridge and Ngoc Son Temple

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Some communist monument

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Temple Entrance

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On the Jade Mountain temple (Ngoc Son Temple - somehow it's not translated into English)

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Another set of gates

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Pillar with "writing on a clear sky" in Chinese characters

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Taishan plaque

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Yet another set of gates. Apparently the lady on the right was cold.

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The lake

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The sad pavilion

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Again, another set of doors. You'd think they were regularly under attack.

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Hall

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Pavilion

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Hall from Pavilion

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About the temple

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Altar - with butter cookies. I found this even more amusing than the biscuit tins previously.

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About Tran Hung Dao, one of their national heroes. Apparently he is "a pride of Vietnam in particular and of mankind in general". Unsurprisingly, I'd never heard of him before.

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Inner altar. The green guy is "Tuong Than Quan De". Not Guan Yu.

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Atheist temple

There was also a section on the Hoan Kiem tortoises (according to the Vietnamese, this is a unique species of tortoise; according to everyone else, it's not).

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On the toirtoises

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Preserved tortoise

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The China was childlike in its decoration.

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Gate house

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Tortoise and sword. This depicts a Vietnamese legend:

"According to legend, Lê Lợi had a magic sword given to him by Kim Qui, the Golden Turtle God. One day, not long after the Chinese had accepted Vietnam's independence, Lê Lợi was out boating on a lake in Hanoi. Suddenly a large turtle surfaced, took the sword from Lê Lợi, and dove back into the depths. Efforts were made to find both the sword and the turtle, but without success. Lê Lợi then acknowledged the sword had gone back to the Golden turtle God and renamed the lake Hoan Kiem Lake (or Ho Guom), "The Lake of the Returned Sword"."

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Dragon with bagua

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Tower at entrance

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Gates

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Open book celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of Hanoi (it was founded in 1010 AD)


Some people claim that the Chinese languages cannot be given romanised alphabets because of homophones, but the experience of Vietnamese shows that it can be done (besides which, people communicate verbally in Chinese languages without any trouble). I suspect the motivation for their insistence is protectionism - having mastered such a fiendishly difficult writing system, they are eager to preserve the value of their investment by keeping it difficult for others to learn it.

Breakfast cost me 30,000 VND.

For sweet fried stuff, I was quoted the princely sum of 30,000 VND. Recall that it was for this amount of food:

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On hearing the 30,000 VND quote, I snapped. I offered 20 (which was still ridiculously generous) but she countered with 25, which I grudgingly accepted.
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