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  • Day2

    More of Hanoi

    June 30 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    As I mentioned yesterday, the excursion outside the city we were hoping to do had basically proved impossible. It really only gets visited during a couple of religious festivals, so regular tours aren't running there at the moment. We looked into a few options with public transport, private drivers and the like but it all sounded a bit too difficult and/or expensive for a Tentative site three years away in the pipeline!

    So we opted to just hang out in Hanoi instead.

    It was a bit cooler today - still very hot but not heatstroke inducing like the previous day. Had a much later start after a relaxing hotel breakfast, then headed out. First stop was nearby train street, a Hanoi institution where the train runs directly through a residential neighbourhood, only a few inches away from the houses. In typical Communist style, a large industry of cafes and shops had sprung up, all competing with the cheapest coffee and the best seats to watch the train come through.

    Completely by coincidence we'd arrived about 15 minutes before a train was due, so we shared a beer and I had a coffee while we waited. It was indeed very close! Though a few minutes before the train approached, they moved all the chairs and tables inside and we cowered on someone's porch.

    Next stop was the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton. This was a prison built by French colonialists, and there was a lot of heavy-handed rhetoric about the appalling conditions Vietnamese patriots were subjected to by the evil French. The next section had lots of happy and smiling American pilots being held in the prison by the North Vietnamese army, without any apparent trace of irony. These days most of the prison is actually gone, it's just a couple of administration buildings. But still interesting to see.

    Quick stop for a late lunch before we headed to the Water Puppet Theatre. Apparently a Vietnamese tradition, this was a very Chinese-style puppet theatre where the puppets are sitting in a pool on long poles, being controlled from behind a curtain and accompanied by live music. The stories were all in Vietnamese so obviously we couldn't follow it, but it was amusing enough and quite well done.

    Last stop was a bia hoi shop, where they sell fresh beer. I'm a bit fuzzy on the details, but it's basically a non-fermented beer that they've brewed that day. No brand, and it's very cheap. I think we paid about 12k dong per glass (about 0.75c), which seemed to be on the high end. Shandos said it was about 1.5k dong when she was here in 2005 - that's inflation for you!

    Back home where we wandered around for a while trying to find some spring rolls without much success. Eventually we just ate at a place a few doors from the hotel.
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