Found another incomplete local draft. That was a good while back. I can’t believe this happened in my life, I can’t believe I am seeing these wonderful people in a month’s time. I’m looking forward to sharing great times with them so soon!:)
29.12.12 – 02.01.13
After leaving Taiwan, Lex, Jennifer and I flew to Hanoi, Vietnam. I have heard of the crazy traffic in Hanoi but seeing is believing. There were many motorcycles and scooters on the road (even the women were riding them) and they were riding on all sides of the road including the pedestrian sidewalk. In Singapore, we advise “look left, look right and then look left” when people cross the roads but this does not work in Hanoi and one has to keep a constant watch-out for motorcycles coming in against the traffic. Crossing at the roundabouts was especially challenging. Furthermore, the drivers like to sound their horns a lot (similar to China) so it makes the roads rather noisy.
Apart from the crazy traffic, Hanoi was enjoyable and memorable. The people at the hostel were very friendly and warm. Not only did they carry our bags up the stairs for us, they even brought breakfast to our rooms. The moment we entered the hostel, they would offer to make coffee or tea for us and they would ask us about our day. I enjoyed talking to them.
1. Ha long Bay.
We selected a 2 days 1 night cruise at the Ha long Bay and the hostel people helped us to book it. Ha long Bay has 1,960–2,000 islets, most of which are limestone, and they have taken over 500 million years to form. It was an incredible sight to see. Ha long Bay means “descending dragon bay” in Vietnamese and it is quite interesting because Ha long bay also means “descending dragon bay” in Cantonese. It is interesting to note the various Chinese influence in Vietnam, for instance they used the musical instrument erhu as well and the Temple of Literature resembles the Stele Forest we saw in Xi’an.
There was a small bus, full of tourists, that came to pick us up from the hostel and then to bring us to the Ha long Bay. It was an approximately 4 hours’ ride with a stop in the middle at a touristy shop. Upon reaching the Bay, we were transported onto a boat which brought us to the cruise. The cruise was small but sufficient; there were cabins, a dining area and a top deck for people to sit/ lie around to enjoy the view. We originally assumed that we would just look at Ha long Bay for 2 days but it turned out that the cruise was rather busy: on the first day, we stopped by an isle to see a big cave (Sung Sot Cave), then we stopped by another isle with a beach and climbed a small hill, at night we had a culinary class on making spring rolls and a fishing + karaoke session. To get to the isle, we had to take the smaller boats and people literally had to climb from one boat to another (depending on how far out your boat was) in order to get to the isle. We were shocked at first when tourists from other boats stepped into our boat.
On the second day, we were brought to a floating village and we could kayak and explore Ha long Bay on our own. It was nice to kayak, relax and stare at the isles. We even went into a few caves. It was pretty fun.:)
2. New Year’s Eve.
We hoped that there would be some countdown-related activities happening in Hanoi city on New Year’s Eve. We first went to watch a water puppet show which was interesting. The performers placed the puppets at the end of long sticks and they could move the sticks such that the puppets danced and moved. After the water puppet show,we went back to the hostel because the hostel was throwing a New Year’s Eve’s party and they were very kind to us while we were there so we felt bad for not going. In the end, once we got there, the hostel people chauffeured us on motorcycles on the sidewalk to another venue for the party. It was an interesting experience. But it turned out we were the only tourists there and they nicely served us the food and the beer.
But it turned out awkward after a while, so we came up with an excuse and left. We decided to follow the crowd, hoping that they were headed for some kind of countdown celebration. There were many people on the streets, more people than we saw on the first night, so we assumed that there was some sort of event. But it turned out they were as lost as we were and we ended up walking in circles the whole night and eventually, we sat by the lake and waited for time to pass together with other tourists. It was anti-climax but it was memorable.
3. Historical sights.
We visited several historical places in the city in a day. We visited Ho Chi Minh Museum, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh Residence, Temple of Literature and Museum of Ethnology. The first three places show how much the Vietnamese people respected Ho Chi Minh – a communist revolutionary leader that led the battle against the French Union between 1945 – 1954. That was also the second mausoleum I have visited – first being the Mao Ze Dong Mausoleum in Beijing. In general, visitors are not allowed to bring bags or laptops into the mausoleums. In Beijing, people left their belongings in Tiananmen Square and someone, probably the tour guide or a kind friend, would look after. In Hanoi, there were stations for people to deposit their belongings so it was more well-managed. You cannot bring a camera into the mausoleum in Beijing but you can in Hanoi so long as you don’t take photos inside. In both places, the mausoleums were grand and the atmosphere was solemn and the queues were long.
The Temple of Literature, as mentioned earlier, resembled the Stele Forest in Xi’an and it was a place where people learned in the past. The Museum of Ethnology showcases the diverse ethnic groups in Vietnam. I would love to visit some of the ethnic people in Vietnam.