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Hanoi take two

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Our return to Hanoi from the Halong Bay excursion was the opportunity to catch up on the few things we had missed first time round.

Top of the agenda was exploring the old town, where the streets are named after their activity, eg “Silver Street”, just sells silver. All the silver shops are here and you pretty much cannot buy silver anywhere else in the centre of town.


wandering the back streets

There is some sense to this, because shopping here follows a different pattern to back home. People don’t browse to become titivated and make an impulse purchase, they shop because they need something, by putting all of the same thing together, punters can browse everything that is available of a certain type, and negotiate the best deal. If you need plastic pipe, there is a street for it, buttons, another street, lanterns – another…even sellotape has it’s own street! (sounds good, try finding nappy street!)

butcher street was a bit take it or leave it.

We also had one of our tastiest meals in Vietnam, in a cafe round the corner from the Hostel, Daysomething Cafe; after being ushered upstairs, we were then able to go to the kitchens and choose the dishes from the food that was being prepared; tasty kebab, fish fritters, vegetables, spring rolls, noodle dishes, Coconut worms and many more. We had to try the coconut worms, more of a little grub, gently fried to provide a delicate crispy shell, which as you bit into it split in your mouth oozing its soft peanut flavoured cream cheese insides – genuinely delicious and a just a bit like “I’m a celebrity…”.

Lenin Park offered a nice respite from the heat, whiling away a few hours in another 1970’s  iron curtain environment watching young and old take part in a fantastically skilful kicking badminton game. They use a flat rubber disc with stringy fronds ( a sort of shuttle cock) and kick it back and forth over a net, being allowed 2 touches each. We tried it with a small sack ball and can confirm that it is MUCH harder than it looks.

nimble feet from young and old

a meeting of the Hanoi Ornithological Society checking out the birds


On the way through town, in search of the missing French Quarter, we also stopped in at the notorious Hanoi Prison, dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by the American pilots incarcerated here in the war – now one of the most interesting museums in Hanoi. On show was the flight uniform of John McCain, downed and then rescued from a lake. (the same McCain who chose the mental Sarah Palin as a candidate for Vice President when running for the election – he must have drunk too much of the lake water)

A stark reminder of how nasty humans can be, the prison also offered a more personal insight into the life of individuals housed here – obviously heavily weighted to the victors point of view, but still very good. The torture room was a bit of a step too far for the kids with pictures of beheaded victims next to the actual guillotine, but the rest was a really powerful in your face exhibition leaving you walking out of the front gate of the prison with a real knot in your stomach.

dubbed the Hanoi Hilton

Vietnam to sum up was a mix of sweet and sour. Memories will probably remember it as one of the highlights of our year, and whilst the hassle you get from the sellers, combined with the slightly suspicious and caustic attitude does get on your goat, most people we got to know were genuine, and friendly: for us Vietnam with it’s steamed rie [sic] and fish remains unshakably authentic.

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  1. Bambula Indijana xxx and kiwi Pauli
    March 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I take it that your vietnamese is well polished by now, so what is the next stop? India and then UK? Are the kids about ready to go home yet or are they still loving it?
    Last night the annual Nice Carnival ended. Its over as the King has burned down and the gigantic fireworks fired from the sea pontoons messed up the local beaches but managed to leave thousands of onlookers well-impressed. The tourists have saddled their easyjet birds and also left.
    If I had a say in this, I would most definitely cut down the last 5 minutes of the half hour fireworks in order to leave more money for the dog poo picker street brigades. I love it here, but what I really hate is that familiar feeling as my foot slides of its course on these sofa dog excrements… Anyway,
    I hope you can come and visit soon… travel safe and bon voyage J xx

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