To top it all, I realized that I left my camera battery charger at home. What can be worse than that?! Arrrrgh!!! I doubt if my battery would last for two weeks, so it's major camwhoring restraint for me. Pout even more.
I changed $150 dollars when arrived at the Hanoi the airport and I was given back more than 2 million doung. Now I can truly consider my self a millionaire!
It was raining when I arrived in Hanoi. My balls shrank because of the cold.
My guest house is located in this charming and relatively quiet street a few blocks north of Ho Kiem Lake, the main tourist area. A winding set of stairs lead to my $8-a-night room on the fifth floor room, which is large enough for three people.
Last night I walked around the vibrant and tree-lined streets of the Old Quarter, with a light drizzle making the evening colder. Hundreds of motorbikes swerve like crazy in the narrow streets of Hanoi. While there are ample sidewalks, motorbikes are parked on them, giving no choice to the pedestrian but to walk on the street while continuously in danger of being swept by a speeding motorbike.
Today the rain stopped but the cold remains and the sky is cloudy the entire day (hello SPF 50?). Just like any decent tourist, I had to pay my respects to Uncle Ho who rests in a massive marble mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh's body is encased in a glass coffin that hundreds of people line up to marvel at. I hardly paid any attention to the corpse at all coz those hot guards were more captivating.
I also stopped by the Army Museum. Spread around the complex are a number of fighter planes, helicopters, and tanks that were captured by the Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. Displayed inside the museum are war memorabilia such as photographs, water canisters, helmets, spikes, cars, flags, uniforms, and of course war weapons that were used by the Vietnamese during the resistance movements against the French and the Americans. It was really depressing to take a glimpse of these violent, but pivotal, periods of Vietnamese history. However, you have to give it to the Vietnamese who used ingenuity and persistence in winning the wars against two very powerful countries.
My next stop was the Fine Arts Museum (this was pretty much the highlight of my day), covering samples of work from the pre-historic to the contemporary periods. I was totally awed by the diversity of the styles used in Vietnamese art. One section showcases paintings using lacquer. The colors just pop out and the lines are more solid. In another section, paintings done on silk are softer and the colors are muted. Lovely contrasts!
Most paintings depict the daily lives of the peasants and some subjects are related to war. I especially love the portraits of women. If anything, Vietnamese painters really know how to do fierce! Judging from the rich variety of styles used by painters in the past, their legacy of art in Vietnam continues, making the country one of Asia's art powerhouses. Oh, any art lover would die at the vibrancy of Hanoi's art galleries that are scattered all over the city.
Shortly after lunch, I stopped at the Temple of Literature, probably Hanoi's premiere pagoda.
After sitting in one of the Old Quarter's many coffee shops to ogle at people, I watched Hanoi's famed water puppet theater. There are like six shows a day and they're all packed. Some tourists have to book days in advance to catch a show and today I was just lucky. What do I have to say about the deft puppetry done on water (obviously)? I was smiling the whole time!
I allowed my self to get lost in the twisted streets of the Old Quarter on my way back to the hotel. Daytime traffic is crazy thanks to the motorbike drivers who use the motorbikes' handles (is that what you call them?) and horns to drive. The noise made the experience much exciting though as I walked past markets, coffee shops, and old, narrow buildings. OMG, I'm crazy over them old buildings. It's also charming how people love to sit on low stools outside their houses while eating nuts and noodles and gossiping (or at least that's what I think they're talking about).
I have to sleep early tonight as I'm leaving early for Halong Bay tomorrow.