Travelogue: Hanoi

Finally, I arrived at the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi! My first impression was not great – miserable cold weather, overcast all day every day. And I didn’t end up liking Hanoi very much, but the food was pretty damn good.
Hanoi - Ngoc Son Temple bridge

Temple of Literature: The first ‘university’ of Vietnam, in charge of administering a national exam of sorts.  Architecturally quite pleasant.
Hanoi - Temple of Literature 1 Hanoi - Temple of Literature 2
Hanoi - panorama Temple of Literature 2 Hanoi - panorama Temple of Literature 3 Hanoi - panorama Temple of Literature 4

It’s got a bunch of steles showing the names of students who passed the exam to get positions with the Nguyen Dynasty administration.
Hanoi - Temple of Literature stele

The crane is the symbol for intelligence and wisdom:
Hanoi - Temple of Literature crane

As fitting to a scholarly temple, there are alters to Confucius and other scholarly figures.

Lots of school groups come to visit:
Temple of Literature school group

Tran Quoc Pagoda: A pagoda on a lake, not terribly impressive.
Hanoi - Tran Quoc Pagoda 1 Hanoi - Tran Quoc Pagoda 2

Woman’s Museum: Okay. It shows off the role of women within Vietnamese society – from all the street vendors of the modern day, to their role as spies and soldiers during the Vietnam war.
Hanoi - Womens Museum bio Hanoi - Womens Museum poster

It’s also got a bit about Vietnamese women’s fashion, which wasn’t as interesting to me.
Hanoi - Womens Museum briday outfit Hanoi - Womens Museum fashion

Hoan Kiem Lake: A lake in Hanoi’s historical district, with an inaccessible “turtle temple” in the middle.  Supposedly the tortoise together with the phoenix, dragon, and unicorn, are the four traditional symbols on Vietnam’s coat of arms.
Hanoi - Hoan Kiem Lake

It’s a nice view, and is great for morning strolls and jogging – if only the weather was better!
Hanoi - panorama Hoan Kiem Lake 2 Hanoi - panorama Hoan Kiem Lake 3

Ngoc Son Temple: A temple on Hoan Kiem lake, supposedly the most photographed icon of Hanoi. Probably because everything else is so boring. This temple is also quite boring, as well as crowded.
Hanoi - panorama Hoan Kiem Lake 1
Hanoi - Ngoc Son Temple Hanoi - Ngoc Son Temple offerings

St. Joseph’s Cathedral: eh.  Somehow a big tourist attraction, probably due to its proximity to the old district, tourist central.
Hanoi - St Joseph Cathedral

Dong Xuan market: A market. I’ve seen way too many already. Wholesale. Boring.
Hanoi - Dong Xuan market

Night market: what city doesn’t have a night market nowadays?  Surprisingly, it’s supported not only by tourists, but also by locals.
Hanoi - night market

Ethnology Museum: A very cool museum, the best in Vietnam! Apparently, Vietnam has 54 different ethnic groups! The vast majority of Vietnam’s population belong to the majority Viet group, but especially in the mountains and rural areas, there are still a lot of minority tribes – each with their own culture and dress.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum minority groups

It’s got a bunch of displays of culture too:
– Sewing via loom.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum loom Hanoi - Ethnology museum display 2

– Religious rituals and daily life at the market.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum display 3 Hanoi - Ethnology museum display 4

– A whole ton of fish traps on a the back of a bicycle.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum fish baskets on bike

– Hats from different minority groups – TF2 would be proud.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum headgear

– The making of traditional bamboo hats.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum making straw hats

– Water puppets.  I like how many many southeast Asian cultures have their own puppets – like shadow puppets in Indonesia, there are water puppets in Vietnam.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum puppets

Outside the museum, they got really cool displays of tribal buildings:
– A long house, used by some matrimonial tribes (husbands join the wife’s family, not the other way around).  There are two ladders up to the building, one for men and one for women.  The one for women has boobs.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum long building Hanoi - Ethnology museum long building inside 2

– A tall building. Each village would only have one, owned by the chief (or chief equivalent).  I’m in awe that such large buildings can be made out of just wood, bamboo, and leaves.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum real tall building Hanoi - Ethnology museum real tall biulding inside

– Group burial grave, as well as individual burial grave.  Check out the carvings.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum group grave Hanoi - Ethnology museum single grave

Oh, and the museum also had a mini water puppet show! It’s a puppet show, where the puppets float above the water, through some mysterious control mechanism – some kind of underwater stick, I’m told. As such, most shows tend to revolve around water and lakes – buffalo plowing the field, catching fish, swimmers, etc.
Hanoi - Ethnology museum water puppets 2 Hanoi - Ethnology museum water puppets 3

Also, goats!  They were just wandering around the museum grounds, and are so cute!
Ethnology museum goats

Amusingly, there were also some stilts laying around – I guess a local toy, since PS4s are quite rare in the minority villages.  After some practice, I became a stilts master.

Bamboo swings were also quite fun.
Ethnology museum swing

Lenin Statue: self explanatory.
Hanoi - Lenin statue

Ho Chi Minh Museum: it’s a weird mix of modern art, Ho Chi Minh slogans, and historical artifacts.
Ho Chi Minh Museum

“My ultimate wish is that our entire party and people, closely joining their efforts, will build a peaceful, reunited, independent, democratic, and prosperous Vietnam, and make a worthy contribution to the world revolution.”
Ho Chi Minh Museum inside 1 Ho Chi Minh Museum inside 2

“My duty is like that of a helmsman who may steer safely the boat the father land through storms and take the people to the shore of happiness.”
Ho Chi Minh Museum inside 3 Ho Chi Minh Museum statue

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: there’s not much to the mausoleum. It’s only open in the morning, so you have to wake up early, trudge to the mausoleum, and stand in line, waiting your turn to enter the mausoleum and see the waxed body of Ho Chi Minh.
Ho Chi Minh masoleum line Ho Chi Minh masoleum

It’s an odd experience – soldiers line the entire path, making sure that you keep walking forward, preventing you from taking photos, and telling you to keep your hands straight by your sides at all times. And the waxed corpse – it’s so… white? They could replace the corpse with a wax figurine, and I would never know.

One Pillar Pagoda: Completely pointless.  Absolutely, completely pointless.
Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda

Presidential Palace: Quite boring. All you see is some old rooms used by Ho Chi Minh, showing off how sparsely he lived.
Hanoi - Presidential Palace room 1 Hanoi - Presidential Palace room 2

Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton): Whitewashed. Walking through the prison, you see all these displays on how the French cruelly treated Vietnamese freedom fighters, locking them up forever.
Hanoi - Hoa Lo prison chained prisoners

In contrast, Americans were “well treated” during the Vietnam War – allowed to play basketball, socialize, and totally not tortured.
Hanoi - Hoa Lo prison American recreation

They’ve also got McCain’s flight suit – the same McCain who can’t raise his arms higher than his shoulders due to torture at Hilton Hanoi.
Hanoi - Hoa Lo prison McCain flight suit

A… memorial? Of some sort?
Hanoi - Hoa Lo prison memorial

Amusingly, nearby are the Hanoi Towers (similar, but not the same as the Towers of Hanoi)
Hanoi - Hanoi towers

Vietnam History Museum: covers this history from Vietnam, starting from pre-history (archaeological artifacts, of course).
– In the ancient era, Buddhism and Chinese culture played a huge influence on Vietnamese culture.
Hanoi - history museum buddha Hanoi - history museum carvings

– There was also the Cham empire, which vied with the Siam (Thai) for power and territory.
Hanoi - history museum Cham masonry

– Then, the colonization began – from the French, who wanted to take Vietnam’s bountiful resources. These two photos, comparing French and Vietnamese navy military might, say it all.
Hanoi - history museum Vietnam resources Hanoi - history museum Vietnam vs France

– After that came Ho Chi Minh and the communist revolution.
Hanoi - history museum Ho Chi Minh Hanoi - history museum revolutionary history

– And finally, the imperialistic USA carpet bombing the innocent peace-loving people of Vietnam.
Hanoi - history museum US bombing

The museum also has a nice garden, filled with historical artificats and bonsai trees (??)
Hanoi - history museum garden 2 Hanoi - history museum garden 1

– Thit luoc cuon banh trang.  Grilled meat with vermicelli  noodles, wrapped in rice paper and sauce?
Thit luoc cuon banh trang

– Banh xeo.  You take rice paper, wrap grilled egg with bean sprouts and vegetables, dip in sauce, and enjoy.
Banh Xeo

– Cha ca: fish stir fried with vegetables, eaten with vermicelli noodles.
Cha Ca

– Bun cha.  Grilled minced meat and bacon in soup, with vermicelli noodles, soybeans, and vegetables.  Delicious.
Bun Cha

– Pho dac biet.  Pho with everything.
Pho dac biet

– Banh cuon.  Shrimp (?) wrapped in rice noodles, steamed, with sauce.
Banh Cuon

– Rice dac biet.  Rice with everything.
rice dac biet

– Mini banh mi: like banh mi, but smaller?
mini banh mi

– Pho bo.  Since Pho is a northern dish, much better than in Saigon!
Pho Bo

– Bun Suon Chua
bun suon chua

In general, I found that the best places to eat in Hanoi were the holes in the wall – the small vendors on the side of the street or down some dark alley, with lots of locals enjoying the food.  With such good business, there’s no reason for them to try to rip off tourists, charging tourists twice or three times the price.  I’m not a fan of this type of dual pricing.
local restaurant

Bits and bobs:
– Pedicabs amuse me.  A tour bus of tourists arrives, everyone gets out and onto a pedicab, and they wait to get pedaled around Hanoi in a line of silliness.
pedicab line 1 Hanoi - pedicab line 2

– Miscellaneous other statues:
Ly Thai To statue Hanoi - random statue

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