Edit Blog Post
Published: July 28th 2019
Inside the Temple of Literature.
Later in our holiday we are going on a boat and apparently the mornings will start with some Tai Chi. We could do with this now in order to get ourselves in a state of serene calm to be able to face the traffic without having a nervous breakdown. I’m sure the best way to cross the roads is to just close your eyes and walk.
We headed for the Temple of Literature, which sounds like my daughter’s idea of hell. She would think we were either deliberately trying to ruin her life or having some sort of joke at her expense.
It was a huge 30,000 Dong to enter, but I keep forgetting that that is just over £1, hardly denting my vast wad of Dong. I’ve noticed that there a no coins here, but that’s no surprise given that the smallest note, a 1000 Dong, is worth about 3p.
The temple is a 1,000 year old university dedicated to the teachings of Confucius. The design of the temple is apparently based on the design of a Temple of Confucius in China. There are several lovely buildings with altars to which a lot of people were praying,
Mopeds in Hanoi.
lighting incense and leaving offerings, mixed in with a load of tourists taking selfies. They were very laid back about all the goings on, but Confucius would have expected no less.
Next we negotiated the traffic up to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the actual body of Vietnam’s greatest hero is embalmed. He played the key role in the Vietnam’s independence from France in the 1940s and 50s. The Mausoleum has a hint of the Lincoln Memorial about it. In fact this area looks like it is where all the government operations are based and it has an air of Washington DC about that (but I can’t see either the Americans or the Vietnamese being particularly impressed about that comparison).
There was security to go through, but we didn’t need to empty our pockets and the bleeping red light on the security gate didn’t seem to worry anyone.
The Mausoleum is only open until 11.00am, which had long past, so we watched the changing of the guard, but then had to dive for cover as the heavens opened and down came the rain at a level that can only ever be expected in the tropics. Fortunately,
Citadel of Thang Long
The Doan Mon Gate in the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.
it didn’t last long and then we walked to the Thang Long Citadel, without having to brave much traffic as this pristine area is closed to traffic (again, much like the Washington DC Mall).
There was a long line of American planes and helicopters, presumably left behind after the war.
The Citadel is a lot bigger, but we thought it lacked the charm of the Temple of Literature (apparently the French are to blame for the destruction of much of the Citadel) and it also didn’t seem as well looked after - lots of it was closed off, there was scaffolding on parts of it and the grass was a complete contrast to the ornate lawns by the Mausoleum. And, of course, it lacks the philosophical teachings of Confucius.
Yesterday, we had bought tickets to the Water Puppet Theatre, but we were running out of time to get there so we jumped in a taxi. The taxi drivers in Hanoi certainly know the right places to hang around and play “spot the tourists”.
This taxi was even more expensive than the second one yesterday and once it got to 400,000 Dong, we told him to stop
Surprising what you find when you’re sheltering from the rain.
and we would walk the rest of the way. The first taxi yesterday was booked by the hotel so we don’t know if that was why it was so cheap, unless we miscounted the number of zeros.
We had some drinks, which we paid for with a 100,000 Dong note. The waitress seemed really confused, until we realised she was expecting more than the 10,000 Dong we had given her.
After a particularly aggressive battle against the mopeds, we got to the theatre with a little time to spare. The Water Puppet Theatre was lovely and the music (by musicians playing a mix of various instruments that we have never seen before) was really soothing and relaxing. Since we were still not completely over our jet-lag, it was all we could do to avoid relaxing too much and having a little sleep. That would be really unfair on the puppet show, however, as it was really enjoyable, although we could not understand a word of what was going on.
There was one particular bit that was clearly about the story of a legendary divine turtle in the Hoan Kiem Lake, who bought a sword to a general
Water Puppet Show
Something a little different at the Water Puppet Theatre.
to help him expel the Chinese from Hanoi and become emperor. Then later the turtle came back to retrieve the sword.
We then headed for the Museum of Vietnamese History, but on the way there, rain came down that made the earlier rain look tame in comparison. There was that same commercial astuteness as the taxi drivers earlier, in that as soon as the rain started every Westerner was approached by people selling ponchos and umbrellas.
We waited a while, watching all the mopeds, as psychotic as ever despite the rain. After a while we concluded that by the time it stopped it would be too late to go to the museum before it closed. We debated for a while what Confucius would do in this situation and then we noticed a nearby rustic looking, non-Western, non-touristy restaurant. Confucius had definitely inspired the right move as it was a lot more authentic than the previous night. The spring rolls were excellent and we also tried some Vietnamese Pancakes. We needed a lesson in how to eat them, however, but they are a kind of variation on Crispy Aromatic Duck, in that you put in vegetables and meat and
Back at night to the Sunbeam Bridge and the Hoan Kiem Lake.
then roll them up to eat.
The rain had stopped by the time we had finished.
On the way back, we decided to brave some street food again. Dried Bananas, which were kind of ok. It’s amazing how a moped can double as a market stall.
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