23.03.2009 - 23.03.2009
Started my second day in Hanoi at 6 a.m. Thought it would still be dark, based on the fact that it's usually not very bright yet at 7 a.m. in Malaysia when we go for morning worship. But I was wrong! The sky has already brighten up, maybe a bit misty, but bright enough with natural light nevertheless. The road outside the hotel was exceptionally quiet, unlike anything seen during the day. Still, the lady vendors have already started working and a few motor drivers have already started looking for passengers.
This was yesterday afternoon.
Where are all the motorbikes?
I started my walk by going straight to Hoan Kiem Lake. Not an extraordinarily beautiful lake, but there is seriously A LOT of people, considering it's not even 6:30 a.m.! There are people walking, jogging, playing badminton, working out on benches, and the most interesting of all -- people (mostly ladies) of all ages doing aerobics to catchy tunes by the lake side. Truly a sight to behold.
...and lakeside Tai-Chi
Here is another video, there are really MANY people doing aerobics. This is just one group. There are MANY other groups.
I continued my walk through the French Quarter. Under French rule, as an administrative centre for the French colony of Indochina, the French colonial architecture style became dominant, and many of them are situated in what is known as the French Quarter today.
Hanoi Opera House
St. Joseph's Cathedral
While walking around, I noticed in several spots there are things like these...
Upon closer inspection...
... it actually provides tourist information! By using the touch screen we can see directions to our desired location. That is pretty cool! Haven't seen anything like that in Malaysia.
I had breakfast at Hapro Cafe by the lake. Seems like there are a few Hapro set-ups around this place. Things are pretty pricey too. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with french fries for 39k Dong, including 10% VAT.
This costs RM8!!!
After breakfast, I proceeded with my walking tour into the South of Center. There I visited the Hoa Lo Prison (now a museum, also sarcastically named as "Hanoi Hilton" by the American prisoners-of-war), the ticket is 10k Dong and the museum is quite informative. The prison was originally built by the French to capture and torture those who rebel against French domination, then during Vietnam War it was used by the North Vietnam government to imprison American pilots who have been shot down. One famous captive is Mr. John McCain, who nearly became Mr. President.
As the story goes, some Vietnamese "patriots" escaped from the jail through the drain.
In true communist style, the museum mentions about how badly the imperialist French treated their dear comrades, with torture and bad food and everything else; whereas when North Vietnam captured the American pilots who are shot down as prisoners-of-war, they claim that the Americans were treated well and not harmed. Not quite the same as what the former prisoners say, but taken into perspective (without considering the cruelty of the war itself), it's pretty comical.
After visiting the museum I walked all the way into another district -- Ba Dinh. It is so far that it is beyond the scope of the map of Hanoi that I have. Haha.. Not THAT far actually. This is where you can see Lenin and Ho Chi Minh (Lenin as a statue and Uncle Ho as his dead body). Ho Chi Minh's body can be visited in his mausoleum if you are interested, but I am not, and it's not opened on Mondays. By the way, many musuems in Hanoi are closed on Monday, so Monday is not a good day to go museum-hopping in Hanoi.
Lenin from Russia...
... and the house for Uncle Ho's dead body.
I continued with my never-ending walk, and went to Ha Trung Street to get some USD exchanged into Dong. USD1=17600 Dong. Much better than the 15000 Dong usually calculated by the vendors, so I had USD50 exchanged. Later events tell me that I should get at least USD100 exchanged but I didn't, so I underestimated the popularity of Dong in Vietnam. It's time to walk back to the hotel to meet David!