Happy in Hanoi

The BFF & I took a short trip to Vietnam, just to get a break before work gets crazier towards the end of the year.  Neither of us spoke the language or knew anybody there, but decided to stay in the heart of the Hanoi old quarter.

I brought the bare essentials and my Lomo LCA+ camera …no make-up, no fancy clothes or heels, no frills. It was all frugal. Well, mostly anyway 😉

Check out some pictures she took. I’ll include mine later *grin*

Flying from Singapore to Hanoi on Singapore Airlines… clear skies, good weather 🙂

Seconds after dumping our bags at Quoc Hoa hotel, the BFF catches me and my lomo, checking out the quaint street we’re on at the Hanoi old quarter…

After checking in, we take a walk around the vicinity of our hotel with our Lonely Planet book and trusty map. A street vendor aggressively hawks her goodies.

Walking to the lake, we contemplate taking a local bus just for the heck of it, but chicken out at the last minute…

The BFF & I watch the sun set over Hoan Kiem Lake after checking out the outside of Ngoc Son Temple… we didn’t go inside the temple because seeing a dead turtle carcass didn’t fascinate us, despite the folklore that surrounds it.

A cheeky moment where we take our own picture… the weather was as hot and humid as sunny Singapore!

More cam whoring moments at the park bench.

Dinner at Quan An Ngon was very enjoyable… it’s a nice open-air food place that’s frequented by locals. Didn’t see any tourists but they had menus in English, which was helpful.

The ambience was great and we ordered plenty of food and drink. It was pretty much like a Marche concept, but no stamp card 🙂

After we had our fill, us girls took a walk around all the stalls and to our horror, noticed a huge tray full of sparrows on a stick 😦 The guy next to us was happily eating a whole pigeon. Well, the Viets certainly like their birds.

Me and my Lomo, checking out the quaintest post box on the street as we walked home…

The lake looked different at night, but the traffic was still the same. We’d learnt the art of crossing the roads from the locals in our first hour in Hanoi, but it’s still pretty scary cos the Viets totally put the New Yorkers to shame 😛

The next morning, we check out the Temple of Literature. It used to be a University decades and decades ago, and they had very strong Confucianism roots.

BFF spied a boy praying for good grades with her camera. They had a ton of stone tortoises around the front courtyard which had scholars’ names inscribed on them. Traditionally, students would pay a visit to this temple and make a round to rub the heads of the stone statues for good luck in scoring high grades.

A very Oriental looking joss stick urn with two stone dragons by the sides… the detail was beautiful.

A tourist shop inside sold a collection of traditional water puppets. Made of a certain type of wood, they had mobile limbs but they looked a tad creepy…

As we were leaving, we noticed a young local couple take their wedding pix at the garden.

On our way to find lunch, a wall stood out. There’s something pretty about its ‘organized graffiti’ as the BFF so cleverly coined. It gave it an edgy character 🙂

It was a bowl of soup with sweet meat that’s just been grilled, along with a plate of dry springy noodles. You dip it into the soup, along with a helping of fresh herbs and vegetables inside the provided basket.

It was very fragrant and we realized we made the right choice 🙂

BFF called this “plants” 😛

My lunch was extremely enjoyable, though we had a lot of locals giving us the weird eye… two strange girls from a foreign land enjoying their local fare!

There was a drink stall next to theirs, run by an old grandpa who sold only a particular type of drink but we weren’t adventurous enough to try the green colored concoction because we were wary where his ice came from!

The roadside stall was run by two sisters and like all other local street food stalls, it had a very simple set-up. That’s her grilling her meat kebabs.

We chose to walk back to our hotel in the old quarter, instead of taking a cab or motorcycle. There’s just so much to see along the way!

Some of the houses were tall and skinny, others looked like grand old dames… I could almost picture myself living in one of them with a balcony 🙂

The motorists don’t have a proper road system and traffic lights mean nothing. If you need to cross the road, just do it – be consistent and don’t suddenly stop. They’d look out for you.

Later in the evening, the BFF & I decided to check out the popular Water Puppet Theatre. We managed to score ourselves front row seats, though it was full house with a big majority of tourists in the audience.

It was rather creative, though a tad freaky… but I’ve never been one who liked marionettes or wooden dummies. There were 9 puppeteers manipulating everything and they stood in waist deep water!

You could buy a puppet, but I didn’t think Mom would appreciate it grinning at her from her livingroom…

After the show, we decided to get some food since it was past dinner time. We found ourselves at a local food stall along the streets and there was a table since, which had a fan. It was hot and humid!

Food seemed to take forever, though it didn’t seem like they had a lot of customers or a wide variety in their menu. It was all local folks, and no one spoke our language.

The dish we shared…

This sexy lady was the chef. BFF couldn’t help but snigger and take her picture when she wasn’t looking 😉

I had no idea what some bits of meat were and we didn’t touch those which seemed like internal organs (ugh!) but i was just glad they had Coke!

Yeah we were hungry!

Us girls taking one final picture before leaving the stall. To the locals it must have been more uppity than the regular ones by the roads, but I was having a tough time sitting on their low stools. It wasn’t comfortable at all!

Walking along streets and getting ourselves lost like strangers in paradise, I found myself venturing into a shop that sold reproductions of classics and then some.

I purchased an oil painting and the girl proceeded to remove the frame and roll it up for me in a retro looking tube.

Real dinner was at a restaurant because we wanted to fill our tummies with something solid and safe. So Thai Express it was! The air-conditioning was heaven sent and we enjoyed ourselves.

Sunday morning saw us heading to the Ho Chi Min mausoleum and at 8:30am, it was already packed and crowded!

Locals go in free, and there was probably thousands of people in the queue which snaked like, forever.

The locals were there to pay respect to their deceased leader, whose embalmed body was kept in the mausoleum. Every few months they’d send it to Russia where they’d maintain his body, though rumor has it that its really a wax figure.

No photography was allowed inside the mausoleum and they were really strict about the things you could bring inside. BFF described the whole experience as “very communist”.

This was where Uncle Ho lived when he was working for the Government.

We checked out the house he lived in after that. There was plenty of history around it and plenty of people checking it out, hence the guards.

Finally, we went into the Ho Chi Min museum to escape from the blistering heat.

It was lunch time later and we walked across the street to a shophouse which sold pho. It was a family run business and the owner spoke some English.

Me and my LOMO…

A mobile vendor comes by selling newspapers and magazines!

A small but important bottle which came in some handy during the entire trip 🙂 After lunch, we took a cab to another museum which was some distance away.

The museum of ethology was boring, and it wasn’t air-conditioned. I was feeling a tad grouchy because the cab driver had ripped us off using his ‘fixed’ meter. We checked out the cafe attached to the museum later, for some well-deserved treats.

The BFF ordered a lemon tart and some wickedly good Vietnamese black coffee…

I had 4 scoops of ice-cream and I didn’t share any 😛

Us girls cam-whoring… the waiting staff were all students on attachment, and some spoke English. They seemed to be amused at our antics.

The BFF happy with her cuppa 🙂 She borrowed my tshirt cos they had really strict rules for the HCM mausoleum (no shorts or tanktops), but I never saw it again cos we suspect the wiley hotel staff swiped it.

We had a terrifying ride back (read yesterday’s blog entry for the entire experience)  because of a crazy horny drunk. So naturally, I had to sleep off the excitement. After her shower, BFF caught me snoozing in my bed with my glasses on 😛 We headed to Bobby Chinn’s restaurant after that, since it was our last evening in Hanoi and it was FABULOUS!

Our last hour in Hanoi on Monday morning was spent on a cyclo which took us around the old quarter.

Picture of us girls taken by the cyclo rider, who must have been doing what he’s doing for decades.

A local fruit/veg seller peddling her things… her clothes and pointy hat just juxtaposes amidst the beeping scooters and fast cars.

A beautiful old church which was having Monday service…

An awesome shot the BFF took while we were on the cyclo.

Reaching back to SG, we had a hearty Japanese meal at my favorite Okinawa restaurant…

Me being a total clown doing the edamame balancing on face trick.

My lomo pix were developed and I walked over to collect it from the store, since i was just next door to the restaurant. What a trip!

🙂 Will blog more about Bobby Chinn’s restaurant tomorrow & upload some of my Lomo pics. Till then, ta for now, more later!

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