A Travellerspoint blog

June 2018

Hanoi-Vietnam-The Hanoi Hilton & Water Puppets

Yesterday, I went on a walking tour of the old quarter of Hanoi from the hostel. I don't have much hope for hostel walking tours, as the guides generally don't seem to know that much. But Bob really did know a lot and I learned a lot yesterday.

I learned that there is a alley with all sorts of folks cutting meat and serving food, right across the street from the hostel. So right across the street, and we don't even know it.

Bob took us to his old church, which is a beautiful cathedral called St Joseph's Church. While the outside looks sort of dark and stained by coal-the inside is majestic and shines like most European ones. He showed us his dad, who was working outside the cathedral watching the motorbikes parked there. Bob mentioned there was one church service on Sundays that we're conducted in French.
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Bob took us for a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, and showed us the temple in the middle of the lake that built in tribute to a leader who fought in the dynasty in the 13th century, and the turtle tower, which stands in the middle of the lake, and was homage to Kim Qui, who was given a sword to fight off the Chinese. When the battle was one-a turtle came to relcaim the sword, hence the named the turtle tower in the middle of the lake. We also saw ladies practice a dance routine, which was pretty good. They take a video and have it posted to Youtube.

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We went for Vietnamese egg coffee, to some place nobody could find-up some secret flight of stairs. The coffee was absolutely delicious-it was more like a desert then a coffee. i had that and a chocolate coffee, and I was highly caffeinated for the rest of the day

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We had a delicious mint ice cream as well. Bob also talked about what it was it was like to be gay in Vietnam. His parent's friends and neighbors always talk behind his back, and wonder what is wrong with him.

After the tour-I went to the Hỏa Lò Prison, which was built by the French to house Vietnamese revolutionaries. It later held the US Prisoner of War, like John Mccain. The entire prison was interesting, including stories of how the revolution was planned from the Vietnamese under French rule, even though it was forbidden by the French. The part on the POW's was very interesting. They we're humanely treated, according to signs on the exhibits. They played games like chess, and had outdoor activities like voleyball. They we're allowed to have church services and a Christmas dinner. it says the Vietnamese followed the Geneva convention, unlike the Americans who mistreated Vietnamese.

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I then walked back to the lake. I walked around. It was dark out, and there we're all sorts of entertainers. There was a street fair going on. I went to a water puppet show, with traditional Vietnamese music. It was quite nice, but sort of long. The show as entirely in Vietnamese.
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After that, there was a street fair which i went to, which was good, I ate all sorts of street food, and went back to the hostel after that.

Posted by DavidPearlman 18:20 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Halong Bay Vietnam-Party Cruise Day #2

Yesterday, I awoke roughly about 8:00 am on the cruise, and went to breakfast with the two folks from my room. The breakfast was standard, just eggs and toast. We sat at a large table off roughly 10 folks, and the conversation at breakfast was about the action the previous night, or the lack thereof. Most mentioned that how it was the quietest party cruise they have been on. Most have been drinking in the afternoon, and couldn't keep going at all.

After breakfast, came the cooking class-how to make egg rolls. Rather then make the egg rolls, i decided to take the few hours and watch the scenery on deck, which was really cool. The islands jutting out of the sea and the other boats in the distance with the islands, as the ship went sailing. I was out there alone while everyone else was rolling eggs rolls.

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Around 12:15, we we're told to get off the boat and take the tender to the bus back home. It was a long bus ride, and i got back to Hanoi, to the same hostel, at around 5:00 pm. I just rested and used the computer. I then went out for dinner at roughly 8:00 pm. i walked along the heated streets, and had dinner at the same place a few days before, where I fought with the woman over the price. They recognized me, and made sure i knew what the price was. Their kids thought it was funny, and took pics of me with their cell phone. I then took pics of them with their cell phone. The food was good (pho-soup with noodles and meat), and then I took a walk around-got lost, and found my way back to the hostel.
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Posted by DavidPearlman 19:01 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Halong Bay, Vietnam-Party Cruise

Yesterday, I awoke early and had everything packed for a 1 night cruise through the hostel for Halong Bay. It seemed like a must-see place here in Vietnam, so I was eager to go. I had to check out of the hostel, so most of my stuff was in the stogage room at the hostel.

I got on the bus around 8:00, which picked up various folks for the cruise around Halong Bay, which is a bay filled with lots of islands sticking right out fo the group. Many which contain caves Once all of us we're picked up, around 60 of us-I learned that this was a true party crusie. The short leader said “Who's here to party???? You are all going to get f___d up!”.Of course everyone cheered .I was sort of nervous-I couldn't keep up with 20 something year olds when I was 20 something. Now 25 years later I will be left in the dust.

After 4 hours, at approximately noon, after a stop at a rest area to purchase Vietnam souviniers, including those from the disabled, (art which was made by them), we made it to the pier where we took a tender to the boat. The boat held about 90 people. We started with lunch in the dining room, which consisted of some type of tofu, some type of breaded fish, french fries and other stuff. Some of the guys at the temple we're recent graduates of Babson College, and weren't too happy to have some 48 year old on a cruise on their backpacking graduation trip.

After lunch-the activities started.

First kyaking to a nearby bay. Most folks we're in pairs. I was alone. I went in a kyack, and promptly tipped it over and fell in the water. I was embarassed, and had to swim about 3 feet to the dock and have the helpers pull me on to the dock while everyone else who haven't boarded their kyak waited for me. At this point, I was thinking about just staying on the boat while everyone else kayaked. Eventually, a woman from Chicago was also alone-so I just went in the kayak with her. After doing that, I learned I should have stayed on the boat. Kayaking is boring. The girl seemed to know exactly how to steer. I didn't enjoy it. It was boring, but the bay was quite scenic.

Next was jumping off the side of the boat time. After kayaking, we got back to the boat, where drinks we're served,for a fee. I had a beer with lunch-I could have had another but didn't feel like paying for one. I told one guy that if they offered me a free beer, I would jump off the boat. I spoke too soon-he said he would buy me a beer. So I got up-there we're two places, a lower deck and higher deck to jump. I climbed up the ladder, walked along a ledge, and jumped off. I landed in the water with a large boom-it wasn't too bad, and he bought me the beer. I felt good-one 20 something girl tried to jump off, but got scared when up there and climbed back down the ladder. Others did it but only after standing on the ledge for a while. But I did it immediately.

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Then the boat started sailing into the sunset. Rather than sit and have a narration of the spots, we did beer yoga. The instructor/cruise director/short guy does all sorts of yoga poses, and then we do a sip of beer after each pose with a long straw. It was rather entertaining, and wasn't serious but not a total joke either, as we passed by a bunch of islands.

Then came a happy hour, with one free drink, which was weak. And dinner. Dinner was ok-a lot of seafood. Then there was a crew talent show with some lame skits, the crew running around. And then another happy hour with dance music playing. The music kept playing. But few people we're there. I took a nap on deck-because I didn't want to go back to my room to see my two roomates gone while I couldn't take it-because I was bored-but I eventually I went back and they we're both there. We hung out for a while talking about life. Then we decided to go back to the dance floor, and see if it got better. They both got into conversations with others. I was bored, so I went back to the room to sleep-it was roughly 11:00 or so.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 04:37 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi-Vietnam-All Hale Ho Chi Manh

Yesterday, i awoke early to do a walking tour of Hanoi, which was supposed to start at 10:00 am every day. But because the tour guide had a prior commitment, it was due to start at 3:00 pm. I didn't want to wait that long-so after the great free breakfast at the hostel I took a walk to the Presidential Palace, which included a carp pond, a house on stilts which he actually lived in (he didn't live in the palace-for reasons I didn't get), but did visit people from around the world there. I saw the cars which he used to use, and the beautiful landscaped garden. While I was able to wander around, the guards didn't let me, or anyone else, loiter. They kept encouraging us to continue walking until we left the grounds,

Then I saw the Ho Chi Manh Mausoleum, which is huge, and was guarded. I accidentally walked too close and the guard blew a whistle.

i then went for noodles for lunch, and walked back into the heat for the Ho Chi Manh Museum. (I wanted to go after the Mausoleum, but the museum is only open from 9-12 and then from 2-5 (or 6)). I arrived at 11:45, and it was already closed, so I had lunch and went later.

From what I learned, Ho Chi Manh seems like a ok guy. He convinced everyone to succeed for the good of the country: Farmers supposedly increased their yields for the good of the country. Factory workers increased production, and students studied harder. Soilders fought harder and everyone was more successful, and that is why they conquered the Americans. IT also said he was a pacifist, and hated war.

After a while, I walked back to the hostel, and took a nap. Then I went back to the lake from the previous day.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 16:41 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi Vietnam-Holy Hotness Hanoi

Yesterday, after arriving at the hostel around 10:00 am, I was able to use the bathrooms to take a shower and shave, and change, since I haven't done so since in about 24 hours.

After that, i went outside to walk around. Vietnam seems to be the polar opposite of Japan. Everyone follows the rules in Japan. People wait at crosswalks for the light and never walk into traffic.. Starbucks, Mcdonalds, and other chains are everywhere. Here in Vietnam, there is disorder everywhere. Motorbikes come from everwhere, and there are no crosswalks. The buildings seem old and crumbling, similar to what i remember in Havana. Little shops are at the bottom, selling everything from clothes to computer accessories. It was a somewhat interesting walk, but I had to idea where I was, (or where I was going), I was groggy from on-and-off sleeping on flights and airports all night, and it was hot, really really hot. I read somewhere it was 99 F with 90% humidity. I was becoming a sloppy mess. So after about an hour or so I decided to go back to the air conditioned hostel, and work on the computer, and rest a while until check-in.

At 2:00, I was able to check in to a bed on the top bunk, I rested for a while. and then tried going out again. (I still wanted to see the city). I was able to go for pho, which I believe is a thick soup, which was delicious with chicken and meat. i had it at a real casual eatery, with a lady and a big pot and foot stools on the street. i walked along, and found a place for a beer-again just foot stools be the side of the road, underneath a railroad trestle near the hostel. I relaxed. i watched the traffic, and the skies turn grey as it rained a little. I kept watching the endless motorbikes.

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At around 5:30, I headed back to the hostel. The hostel serves free beer at 10 minutes past each hour starting at 6:00 am. I had a beer, and talked and waited for the next beer at 7:00 pm. After that, I went out for dinner. It cooled down to a point to comfortably walk around. I found a place that served some other spicy soup, which was good. I got into a fight with the server because it was more expensive then I thought, (still only about $2.00-$3.00 for the meal). I then walked into a downtown area, where there we're plenty of lights and stores, many selling clothing and souvenirs.
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i walked around some more, found my way back to the hostel. It was World Cup night and everyone was watching Morocco vs Portugal, or someone. After a while, I went up to a movie room near the roof, and watched the end of some Leonardo Dicaprio/Kate Winslett film that wasn't Titanic and supposed to take place in the 1950's. Then I went to bed.

Posted by DavidPearlman 17:46 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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