Starting at 7.30 am, we were joined by our guide and driver for a whistle stop tour of the major sights of Hanoi. Breakfast, traditional Vietnamese style was first on the agenda. Vietnam has been named as being in the top five healthy diets.Everyone eats breakfast out. It is a soup of noodles , meat, shallots,and herbs all cooked in a stock. Yum and healthy.
After this healthy start, we headed for the original temple and University of Hanoi. Because it is Sunday, there is less traffic on the roads…..you will see what that means later. At weekends, children don’t have school but some schools organise trips to historical sites so children learn about their country.The site for the temple was chosen by its founder based on the sighting of a cloud shaped like a dragon. Symbolism is very important in Asian cultures.
The temple is divided into four areas to represent each of the elements fire, water, earth and air. Students would sit an exam in their village. Of the 60000 student who sat the exam, 60 would be invited to sit a second exam. Students would be chosen from these to continue for 5 years of study. They would then sit an exam that asked a question to help the country. The winner would then assume a position of importance in the Kings palace.
From here we went to visit the Ho Chin Minh mausoleum. Through his efforts, Vietnam finally became an independent country free of foreign occupiers.He is much revered by his people.His tomb is only opened till lunch time each day. Look at the queues.
Ho Chin Minh was a man of the people. He did not want to live in the official palace, a beautiful French colonial building, choosing to live firstly in a small house of four rooms and then in a specially built house on stilts. This was to represent the traditional house of the highlands. A single man, he cooked and looked after himself. Quite a humble man who power did not corrupt.
Should you be planning a new baby and you particularly would like a son, you will need to visit our next stop, the One Pillar Pagoda. Our guide told us you need to pray there requesting the gods intervene for you. She now has two sons.
Ho Loi Prison was built in the 1800’s. It ended its terrible history with the name the “Hanoi Hilton” . Conditions in the prison were horrendous. Torture was common. Prisoners were shackled by their legs for all but 15minutes a day. During this time, they washed, went to the toilet and ate. American pilots were imprisioned here during the Vietnam war but did not experience the hardships of the Vietnamese prisoners.
Do you think you could climb through a space 20 cm sq.?
We rolled to the next experience of Hanoi…a cylo trip around the Old Quarter.
Your senses are assailed with noise of vehicles, horns, dust, smells from different foods and spices, colour from the multitude of goods for sale. Mmmmmm, I don’t think I want to go shopping after all.
Thankfully our next visit was to the famous lake where legend has it, the general,returning from battle , saw a turtle that grabbed his sword and took it. If turtles appear near the shore, local people are warned of disaster. There is a bridge leading to a temple to honour the turtle god and the general.
This is at the entrance and is the pen to the heavens. At certain times,it’s shadow reaches an ink bowl on the entrance gate top and can then carry your words to heaven. Or you could pay someone to pray for you in the correct words.
We ended our day with a visit to the Water puppets. These were amazing. The skill needed to move the puppets in the water to the music was astounding. My favourite was the unicorns playing like puppies with a ball but the dance of the birds, dragons fighting and the retelling of the legend were also,well received.
I have mega sore feet but it was an excellent day. The long trip to Halong Bay tomorrow.