Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hanoi, Vietnam same-same

Learning about the Vietnam War was an obsession of mine until my mid-teens. I watched movies, documentaries, read books about the subject and the passion just sort of puttered out when I discovered the likes of The Clash and Sex Pistols. I remember my brother George taking me to see Apocalypse Now when I was 11 at the theatre on Fitzsimons Army base. The movie is still a favorite and just in case you’re a fan of it as well, there is a 5-hour plus work print of the film that I acquired several years ago and passed it along to my friend James Joyce, I believe. Talk about the process of weeding out.  

A couple of years ago Ana and I bought a Lonely Planet book on Vietnam while traveling through Laos. The pictures of Ha Long Bay really made an impression, as did the description of the streets of Hanoi smelling like baguettes, thus putting Vietnam in our queue of places to visit. Hanoi’s old town could be experienced in a couple of days, there wasn’t much to see. If there was an aroma of baguettes, it was easily covered-up by exhaust from the mass of motorbikes racing down narrow streets. 

Uncle Ho welcoming you to his museum. There was a good amount of information how the Communist came to power from defeating the French to the unification between the north and south…keep in mind history is always written by the victor.  

The spoils of the “American” war. War is stupid; every side loses. I once had a discussion with a solider from the Iraq war, he didn’t like Muslims or Iraqi people. “perhaps if you weren’t wearing a uniform and had a gun, maybe the people would have had a different impression of you.” I suppose if another country’s soldiers were on my street in San Diego shooting my people, I probably wouldn’t have a favorable impression of them.   

Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum-protected by armed guards. “You take picture here.” 

Rare red dragon fruit at a tourist price. Like Ethiopia, there is a 3-tier price system: local, expat and tourist.

Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of old town; a nice place to practice your tai chi or ballroom dancing in the morning. 

 I’m not sure why this method for carrying food hasn’t caught on. There are many variations of this. 

Arranging flowers in the park for the New Year display. 

Walking across the street is like human Frogger. We didn’t see a single accident, but many near misses. 

A visit to Hanoi isn’t complete without a trip to the Water Puppet Theatre. The 5-6 daily shows are always sold out unless you tell the attendant that you’re leaving the next morning, they will somehow locate you a ticket. 

We weren’t sure what to expect for Christmas Eve, certainly not carolers. 

The Vietnamese like their little dogs, often dressing them in clothing. 

Minions have gone global-a few seconds later these were tangled in the tree.

Midnight mass is a social, hangout event. The streets are closed near St. Joseph’s Cathedral. So much for the story that “communist were godless” I heard growing up. 

Day trips anywhere outside the city means a jerky bus ride with a stop at the driver’s cousin’s souvenir shop for a 30-minute restroom break.      

We were out of the city and that is what mattered. 

The menu for the day was Tam Coc and Hoa Lu

In Tijuana the Mexicans have donkeys painted as zebras and in Vietnam water buffalos look like this. 

The tour included an hour boat ride in the canal. 

Can your bike do this? 

Some tree-trimming along the way. 

Facebook picture. 

After the rowboat experience, biking along trails. The guide didn’t like me because he wanted to stop every 50 meters for pictures. “You stop now take picture” I wanted to keep peddling. 

“You no go that way”

Another temple. 

Ana likes to obey the rules. 

The rower was showing off rowing with his feet then changed his tune once I pulled out the camera. 

No comment. 

Night view of Hoan Kiem Lake

Hanoi has nachos. Just in case you aren’t familiar with our rule when we travel, any time nachos are on a menu we order it. We know it will be bad, but rules are rules. 

I woke up at 6 am to get the real Hanoi morning experience. 

A little bit of ballroom dancing to Ghost Rider in the Sky ala yippee-ja-oh, yippee-ki-je with helium voices.  

The main road outside old town is lined with a mosaic walls featuring many aspects of Vietnamese life. It was one of the more impressive public works of art in the city. 

I suppose every country is somewhat ethnocentric. 

There is a book out documenting objects people carry on their bikes in Vietnam. The same publisher also released a photo essay of Vietnamese breastfeeding in different regions-the title reads something like “the milk of life.” 

We didn’t see much street art, this was the extent of it. 

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