Lost on Planet Earth – Mars Travel Journal – Vietnam Day Two

Vietnam 2011

Good Morning Vietnam!

Sunday, 4 December – Hanoi

Day 2 – Hanoi, Vietnam

Time to rise and shine to our first beautiful day in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Waking up around 6am to have enough time to shower, dress eat breakfast and pack a day bag for a City Tour I had organised the afternoon before that left at 8am.  The Tour cost $30 each to visit 8 of Hanoi’s city’s highlights.  We both appeared to be well rested for a big day head of us.

The hotel supplied a complimentary breakfast each day, which consisted of mainly fruit, bread, eggs and bacon.  While waiting for the bus to arrive and collect us we worked out how to access the Hotels Wifi with the supplied password, a language barrier was obvious when I was trying to understand the front receptionist when asking for the password.  The other staff members spoke english

Just past 8am the tour bus arrived and collected us. The first stop visited was the Tran Quac Pagoda (Large tower 2nd from Bottom), is a Buddhist temple located on West Lake islet, Tran Quoc means “Stabilizing the Nation” in Vietnamese. The tour guide spoke about the bodhi tree situated in the gardens of the Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi. It was taken from a cutting of the original tree, under which Buddha sat and achieved enlightenment.

Our next stop was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum which is a large memorial. Our tour guide asked us to give him our Camera’s before entering as they were not allowed in the Mausoleum.  I was completely unprepared for what I was about to see.

The embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh is preserved in the cooled, central hall of the mausoleum, which is protected by a military honour guard.  The body lies in a glass case with dim lights.  Our guide said that the mausoleum is closed occasionally while work is done to restore and preserve the body but is normally open daily from 9:00 am to noon to the public.

Rules regarding dress and behavior are strictly enforced by staff and guards. Legs must be covered (no shorts or miniskirts). Visitors must be silent, and walk in two lines. Hands must not be in pockets, nor arms crossed. Smoking, photography, and video taping are also not permitted anywhere inside the mausoleum.

Once out on the law I took a few photos of the outside guards, the Mausoleum Building (as pictured) and the Vietnam flag towering above us.  I felt awkward about having just seen a Presidents dead body.

Around the corner from the Mausoleum were the Ho Chi Minh House Museum, which were 3 housed Ho Chi Minh lived in surrounding a lake, Palace, Standard house and a stilt house.

One Pillar Pagoda (Picture to left with myself in it) was our next stop which is a historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi. It is regarded alongside the Perfume Temple, as one of Vietnam’s two most iconic temples.  The temple was built by Emperor Lý Thái Tông, who ruled from 1028 to 1054.  According to the court records, Lý Thái Tông was childless and dreamt that he met the Bodhisttva Avalokiteshvara, who handed him a baby son while seated on a lotus flower. Lý Thái Tông then married a peasant girl that he had met and she bore him a son. The emperor constructed the temple in gratitude for this in 1049, having been told by a monk named Thiền Tuệ to build the temple, by erecting a pillar in the middle of a lotus pond, similar to the one he saw in the dream.  Many Vietnamese women and couples come to One Pillar Pagoda to pray and offer gifts to help with fertility.

Visiting the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology next where we learnt about the different ethnic groups of Vietnam’s population.  I enjoyed looking at the artefacts and having a chance to sit down for a while.  The toilets at the museum received 5 happy faces as they were clean, and it wasn’t required to supply your own toilet paper.  We had missed the outside Water Puppet show, this did not matter as we had already organised tickets for a viewing tonight in the main city.
We visited Hanoi’s humanitarian Centre next where the locals are taught how to sow silk paintings, cloths, artefacts, jewellery and more, I purchased a silk painting of the Halong Bay that we would be venturing to the following day. It cost $18 US dollars.  We had lunch as this cute little upstairs restaurant called The Blue Butterfly overseeing the Temple of Literature.  This gave us a chance to mingle with some of our tour buddies.
Our 2nd last stop is the Temple of literature, although several Temples of Literature can be found throughout Vietnam, this is the most prominent and famous, which also functioned as Vietnam’s first university. The temple was first constructed in 1070 under King King Lý Nhân Tông and is dedicated to Confucius.  Through the years, the temple has been destroyed various times by wars and other disasters, and has gone through several major restoration works.  The temple is visited by current students who come to pray for good results from their studies.

Our Last stop for the day is the Ngoc Son Temple on the Hoan Kiem Lake that we had wandered around the day before. The island and its temple are reached by a red wooden bridge called The Huc, which translates to “Flood of Morning Sunlight”. Either end of the bridge is guarded by large stone gateways with Chinese characters written on them. In a room off to the side of the front altar is a preserved specimen of the lake’s giant tortoise.
It was now time to head back to the hotel.  We had a nice afternoon nap before meeting our tour group in the lobby at 6pm and attended dinner with some of the members of our group and our tour leader for the next 10 days.  After dinner we had some time to spare so we went back to the hotel for a nap and met Lisa and Peter (a daughter and father traveling together) to walk to the Water Puppet show together at 9:15pm.
I really enjoyed the Water Puppet Show, the music was beautiful and very traditional of Vietnam culture. The show was about 45 minutes long and cost $5US to attend. We had a lovely walk home to the hotel and were in bed by 10:30pm knowing we have to get up at 6am again for our next venture to Halong Bay!

Odd Observations:

  • Vietnam Bacon tastes funny.
  • Bring your hotel toilet paper with you EVERYWHERE!
  • The sites we visited were very clean and friendly.
  • Crossing traffic was still a little scary, especially in peak hour.
  • Toilets will always be a worrying experience.