Our night in Hanoi was pretty good. A really good Pizza in the restaurant overlooking the roundabout – where I went and stood in et traffic for a while to get a good photo.
Then a nice walk around the lake again, where there are loads of locals, sitting on mats and carpets, just enjoying the cool evening, while chatting playing games and trying to cop off.
We wandered back through the back streets of the old quarter where even more people and families were just hanging out on their carpets and mats, enjoying the evening. It was a fantastic atmosphere and really nice to see people out having fun. Its a shame we don't do something similar at home.
In the morning we had a lovely lie in and a massive comfortable bed, undisturbed by the noises of the city and Vietnam for the first time in ages. We had to book out at 12 though so we decided to spend the afternoon down at Ho Chi Minh museum and mausoleum and see what else we could find.
It was a great afternoon out. After a full English breakfast at a café around the corner from the hotel, we ventured down towards the Presidential Palace, where we were told off for getting too close by the armed guards. We continued onwards and reached a part of the Red River, where after a quick look around a Pagoda, we saw a woman selling all sorts of trinkets – and live turtles. We motioned to ask if the turtles were to eat and she pointed to the river and gestured that they were to put in – we know that the turtles is revered here in Hanoi and that it is good luck to see one -plus these ones were being kept in a little bit of water in a polystyrene box – so we ended up buying one and after naming him Terence, we found a nice spot away from et fishermen and their nets and set him free into the river.
We continued our walk and visited the Botanical gardens, where there were literally dozens of brides and their families getting wedding shots taken -they were everywhere. We found a rear exit from the gardens passing a basketball court that doubled as a skate park – at the same time, before we finally got to Ho Chi Minhs mausoleum -Uncle Ho as he is called here, has his body kept here on public show, but today it is away in Russia for maintenance, whatever that means, so we just saw the outside and the impressive surroundings, plus a few dodgy military geezers dressed in quite scruffy white uniform.
|Me in the mad Hanoi traffic|
|Buffy and terence|
After that we saw the outside of the Ho Chi Minh museum and a pretty little pagoda in the garden before trudging down the busiest street of the day to find the B52 that crashed into a small lake near here. We actually found the B52 Victory museum, that was being rebuilt and we wandered around the building site, taking pictures of the B52 tail, Vietnamese rockets and being waved and smiled at by the workmen building there. Behind a sheet we also saw a massive pile of scrap metal, that is what is left of downed American planes from the war – a cool find!
We never found the B52 in a lake though and discovered later on the internet that we were about 100yards away! We will go back next week. On the way back though I saw a vietnamese man, pushing a bike, with a tape player attached to the handlebars. It was the oldest tape player I have seen inyears – It was basically just the insides of a 1970's cassette player, connected up to s set of cheap speakers and playing the old guys music. It looked like something he has had on his bike since he first made it as a kid and I wouldnt be surprised if he had. He was also very happy for me to take a photo of it and of him!
We made our way back to the hotel and then to the Train Station where we had a spot of dinner before boarding our overnight train to Sapa. We were supposed to be sharing a 4 person cabin, but the couple who were sharing spent most of the journey in a cabin next door with their family, so we were free to watch a couple of videos before getting some sleep. We were woken at 4am by the guard as we arrive in the station at Lao Cai, where we were picked up by a minibus and driven the 30km's or so up the mountains and through the clouds to the town of Sapa. This is an old town nestled right in the hills of Northern Vietnam and our home for the next 5 days or so. It was still only 6am and our room wasn’t ready, but the hotel manager 'Zoom', let us use a spare room till lunchtime, in order to clean up and get some rest. Funnily enough, just as we lay down to sleep, someone next door started to bang nails into something -at 6am!! Bloody noisy locals again – although today it didn’t stop us sleeping. We woke up just after 10am and had a lovely breakfast in the rooftop restaurant,overlooking the stunning valley with low clouds and rice paddies everywhere.
|In the botanical gardens|
|Uncle Ho's mausoleum|
|Cool tape deck|
|The proud owner|
After breakfast we finally moved into our room, which has a balcony and a superb view across the gorgeous valley, with mountains, rice paddies and fields all topped by clouds, as is normal up here at 1500m above sea level. In the afternoon we took a walk around town and were pleasantly surprised that the town, although on the tourist trail, is very traditional, with local people dressed in their traditional outfits and selling locally made items and food to everyone – locals and tourists. There isn’t that many westerners here either which makes the place feel a bit special – it actually feels a lot like Bavaria, mixed with a small Mexican town – with the mountains, clean air, mist and the traditional local feel. It is a cool place and we enjoyed our walk around town, largely being left alone by hawkers and sellers, with the odd local saying hello and smiling as we smiled at them. We even spent 20 minutes watching a bunch of local kids play football barefoot on a soaking wet muddy pitch, before having lunch and continuing our wander around the town, eventually finding our way back to the hotel and the view just before it got dark.
|The view from our window|
Then evening consisted of some pasta in a cool little local restaurant before a couple of beers and then of to bed. We have packed our stuff for an overnight stay at a local villlage on Sunday night – that is part of the trek we are doing. Its only one night out and maybe 20km walk, but its a lot different to what we have don so far in Vietnam and should be fun!