Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hanoi, Vietnam Explorations

Day one in Vietnam. It started with an early day. I think I woke up at about 4:30am. I guess you could say that I was having a little trouble adjusting to the time zone change.
I was staying at a friend's apartment. Outside the apartment there was this man cuddling and petting his rooster.
My friend took my by scooter to a street food vender that was serving spring rolls tofu and rice noodles. It was excellent. Actually, it was the perfect way to begin my first day in Hanoi.
After breakfast my friend dropped me off in the old quarter of Hanoi so that I could walk the streets and get a feel for the place. 
It seems like everybody in Hanoi operates some type of business. Either they were selling things in the traditional manner walking door-to-door carrying their produce or they had a traditional storefront along street.
There were areas of the old quarter where's specific streets were dedicated toward specific products or services.
This particular street seem to be dedicated to anything made of bamboo poles, ladders, hats...you name it
This particular street seemed to be dedicated to paper items and papier-mâché.
There lanterns, streamers, animal figures and party items.
But right along some the traditional shops there were very modern shops that sold fashionable clothing, watches and computer products. 
Hanoi seemed to be a city where old ways functioned right alongside the new ways. Where a merchant could deliver their produce on a bicycle or a merchant could deliver their goods on a motorized scooter.
I did enjoy seeing various generations mixing, mingling and just discussing the days news on the street corner.
I walked around a bit and eventually stumbled upon this old structure called the Dinh Kim Ngan house. From what I could gather it was an old communal house that at the end of the 19th century was dedicated towards the production of silver ingots. Now it was part temple and part museum.
Outside the building structure there a few hanging bamboo cages with birds. One was a pigeon and the other bird was something like a canary.
Inside the structure there were some amazing carvings and ornamentations. What I learned was that there was a master carver which fashioned many of these items out of silver and bronze.
As is common in many Buddhist structure there was a little area set aside for a shrine.
On one wall there was a very old stone tablet with Chinese characters carved into it.
I wandered around the backside, down a little alley, and I came across this hidden garden. It contained stone sculptures and little ornamental plants.
Back out on the street, I walked quite a distance and came across this monument. I couldn't read the statement on the front but I was told that it was a monument dedicated to the common people for being industrious, dedicated, and loyal.
I happened across the Hoan Kiem lake or lagoon in the center of the city. Built along one side of the lake was a pagoda and temple called the Jade Mountain Temple.
I did not see much jade, nor a mountain, but their were some nice views. 
There were some outdoor alters were people were burning incense and leaving offerings.
And then there was the actual temple. 
I went inside and watched these men assists this lady with her offering. I didn't understand all that was transpiring, but it was quite elaborate. I thought that I should leave them alone in private, so I left the temple and hit the street again.
I continued walking down the street and saw this rather large statue. I walked up to it and read the plaque. The statue was of emperor Lý Thái Tổ (birth name Lý Công Uẩn. He was Đại Việt Emperor and was the founder of the Later Lý Dynasty, he reigned from 1009 to 1028 AD. It was he who moved the capital to Hanoi in 1010.
After circling the lake on foot I was pretty hungry and tired so I looked for a place to eat and relax. I found a nice cafe and ordered some food and this ice coffee. Wow... it was really strong and prett tasty. The time difference between Hanoi and Austin is exactly 12 hours. It was about 2pm in Hanoi and 2am in Austin. I could not tell if I was tired from the activity or tired from the time difference. All I know is that after that ice coffee I was wide awake and ready to roll.
Back out on the street I walked through the street market area of the old quarter. 
I was meeting some other travelers and some locals to chat at this little coffee shop called Reng Reng Cafe.
It was a small place with mostly outdoor seating, but they had a pretty nice design for their shop. The brew was strong. I met some travelers named Kanoko and Anne and a local named Van. We chatted and I picked up some tips about traveling in Vietnam.
After a few hours of relaxing I was ready for more exploration. As I was walking down the street an caravan of about ten identically dressed girls riding scooters passed by. They were escorted by a number of guys on scooters. I think they were promoting something. It certainly was eye catching. I didn't quite catch what product or service they were promoting so maybe it wasn't such a good campaign, but it did make me wish that I had my motorcycle to ride around the town.
At the suggestion of Kanoko and Anne, I decided to check out the covered market called the Dong Xuan Market.
They had everything from cheap shoes...
To kids toys...
To material for sewing. I was not really in the mood for shopping, just taking a lot around.
When I was back out on the street I came across this Vespa.
But it wasn't just any ordinary Vespa, it was a three wheel taxi Vespa. I would love to cruise around in this little moto. If I had this back in Austin I would be so hipster.
Walking around some more I enjoyed dropping in on all the little shops. I can't speak Vietnamese so my interactions with the locals are pretty limited. But I thought that this scene with an older merchant reading a newspaper in the door stoop of his metal ornamentation shop was classic. I could not tell if the items in the shop were bronze or gold, it did not matter. To me, the image was as good as gold. 
This dried goods shop had an interesting street side display. They had this case of dried fruits facing the street.
But when I looked closer there were elephants...
Ostriches...
Crabs...
Schrimp...
And ants created out of the product. Pretty clever. 
As I passed through this one back alley I met Scrappy Doo. This dog appeared to be a mix between a pit bull and a corgy. He was awfully friendly and did not appear to be a very ferocious guard dog. Still, I did not attempt to look inside the pot of something that he was guarding.
Finally, toward the end of my first day walking around Hanoi I came across this group of guys lifting these scooters up to the second floor of this building.

Check out the video... http://youtu.be/uFMl7eSXpxo

I don't know why they were doing it, but it was just one of those interesting things you see when your walking around with no itenerary, a curious mind and open eyes. 

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