Published: May 16th 2012May 16th 2012
My second day in Hanoi, Vietnam has been been brilliant.
0730: Tried to have a relative lie-in today (but this was quickly made impossible due to the roaring sound of Hanoi traffic) so a quick bannana pancake and a couple of cups of coffee and I'm good to go!
0815: Off to Hoan Kiem Lake in the old quarter, beautiful green lake that stands as the heart of Hanoi. The surrounding benches and grasses are already teaming with locals utilising the all important shade. I was approached by several hawkers and after some friendly conversation with a 27 year old Vietnamese lady I decided to purchase a Lonely Planet Vietnamese phrase book (for a very reasonable haggled price :])
0845: On to the temple in the middle of the Hoan Kiem lake 20,000d admission and a what a lovely temple it is. I learn about the mystery of the lake and the famed turtles which are held as sacred and have only been seen on a handful of occasions throughout the lakes history.
0920: Now for a walk to try and find the Vietnamese History Museum - this proves a challanging task, walking through the crazy Hanoi traffic and crossing roads with the mindset that I might actally die lol!
0950: I finally find the museum with a little bit of backtracking to get there. Oh and I didn't die on the roads so that's a good thing.
The museum is very interesting, displaying artifacts of Vietnamese life from the very beginning, all the way through to the French occupation with all it's brutalities and communist uprising. My visit here was cut short for some reason and I was ushered out of the museum along with other confused looking tourists - I can only assume it closes for a few hours in the middle of the day?
1130: After my brief stint at the museum I decide to have a ride on one of the many cyclos touring around the city and from this I gain an interesting new angle on the city and get some great photos in the process. After the agreed hour for 200,000d the rider tries to adapt the route for a new price so this ends in him being paid 200,000d and me leaving the cyclo...luckily near the Hoa Lo Prison.
1230: Hoa Lo Prison - a very eerie visit ensues but the place is depressingly facinating, understanding life in the prison for both Vietnamese prisoners of the French and then later the US POW's. Shocked by the conditions and stories of torture. A lot of the prison has been destroyed through time but a portion still exists; where you can walk round the cell block and 'death room'. There are also a number of prison artifacts that have been collected through the years that make for some interesting viewing.
13:30: Walking back to the old quarter on the west side of Hoan Kiem Lake I meet a hawker called Dow. A friendly chap who first tries to sell me various Lonley Planet books on Vietnam but then moves on to Vietnam war literatre so I haggle and eventally settle on 'The Sorrow Of War' by Bao Ninh. We then swap information on our cultres and have a cultral exchange of tobacco - He buys me a glass of local iced green tea and a Vietnamese cigarette and also a smoke of some large wooden tobacco pipe, in exchange I smoke a English roll-up cigarette with him. After talking and smoking for some time he offers me his various conections such as offers for moped rides, legitimate and not so legitimate massages and beer venue recommendations. I learn he has never been out of Hanoi and he states he is very poor - he enjoys a very much supervised go on my iPhone and I give him 2000 Indonesion Rupiahs from my earlier travels as a souvenier of other lands. We part with a handshake and I can say it has been my favourite experience in Vietnam so far.
The rest of the day is spent searching for a late lunch (a dissapointing, soggy chicken wrap) and later on some evening food at a small vendor in the old district, I have Ga Tau Xi (chicken in black bean sauce with boiled rice) which is very nice.
Finally searching for somewhere to have a few beers in the old quarter proved difficult and in the end I was unsucessful.
All in all, a great day in Vietnams capital... tomorrows plan is to go to the west side and hopefully see some more temples.