Sunday, July 9, 2017


After quaint, scenic Hoi An, we flew north to Vietnam's capital city, Hanoi.  A bustling, funky city that embraces its history more tightly than Ho Chi Minh City; memorials and artwork of military victories over the French and the U.S. are way more numerous than in the South.  

While HCMC seems to look mainly ahead to the future--business, growth, money, Hanoi retains much of its old colonial charm and ancient ways of doing business.  It's overloaded with loud motorbikes and honking cars like other SE Asian mega-cities, but the Old Quarter, where we stayed most of the time, is a bit more walkable and has the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake right in the middle.  

The Old Quarter is home to some amazing alleys

Parts of Hanoi are a little rough around the edges (this is an unofficial entrance to the park below), but we never felt unsafe walking around. Maybe because there are no private firearms in Vietnam.

Taking a park bench break. It was HOT in Hanoi in July. 

The park included some classic amusement rides.

and what appeared to be a gigantic outdoor Zumba class.


This is St Joseph Cathedral, a gothic catholic church directly across from our boutique hotel.  It's bells start ringing at 5 AM.  Sort of a Catholic "call to prayer."

Instead of hacky sack, Hanoians play a cooler version that Scott calls kicky bird, it flies farther and has feathers.  People are playing it all over the streets and parks. the official name is "foot badminton." We are still trying to figure it out.  Here Zaylie plays with Mei who runs our cute hotel.
kicky bird pros

Delicious coffee and ice cream drinks here looking out at the cathedral, thanks for the tip Anastasia. 

Fountain and round about near lake Hoan Kiem.  So much is always happening around the lake especially early in the morning and after sunset- taking advantage of slightly cooler temps.  On a walk one morning we saw the dudes lifting some impressive DIY weights.  Further down the ladies are dancing and moving and some with red fans- super lovely scene.
hanging out near the fountain

Jazzercise isn't just an indoor activity


Other outdoor activities involve eating.  These plastic stools are everywhere and often occupied.  Bahn mi sandwiches, Pho, coffee all work perfectly, especially if you are Asian sized.  These stools are slightly harder for our group now we have 3 humans 6 feet or taller, but we managed.

After a few wrong turns, we finally found this Vegan restaurant down 2 small alleys.  As with many establishments here, it was a shophouse, meaning the family lives in one part of the house and operates a business in another part.  Loved the many mock meat options on the menu, delish. 
Another frequent sight in Hanoi are the bikes of burden.  People, mostly women, carry huge quantities of stuff all day and many innovative ways.  Bikes are sometimes used to roll goods and not ride. 
a basket weaver's mobile store (from the ethnology museum).

Another common means of carrying goods--the yoke.  Some of burdens looked like they must weigh 100 lbs but the tiny grandmas handled it with ease and were ready to sell you something out of the baskets.

These plants- I love. 

Much of the focus of Hanoi's museums and memorials is on the country's conflicts with the French and U.S.
The gates to the "Maison Centrale" prison, also called the "Hanoi Hilton" where American POWs were jailed and tortured, now a museum dedicated to the Vietnam national heroes who led uprisings against French colonial rule from the 1930s onward.
The guillotine used by French Colonial police to behead insurrectionists.  
The prison museum goes to great lengths to highlight its kind treatment of American POWs.
The reality was more grim.  According to John McCain prisoners were regularly tortured, suffered multiple broken bones, and forced to read false confessions. 

On this monument to Vietnam's war heroes, the long, plug-like pole held by the man in the middle is actually a suicide anti-tank mine.

Another super delicious find up north is Egg Coffee, wish we could drink more but it's way potent and way rich. 

Once we are done with coffee, of course we move on to beer.  Lach may have some feelings about the size of this stein.

Lots of family dinners and cocktail hours mean lots of card games too.  

Lach and Z modeling the latest motorbike fashions

One curiosity about Hanoi's Old Quarter is that on many streets here all the merchants on a particular block sell all of the same stuff.  It's like aisles at a Home Depot.  On the street below, we have continuous shoes stores for blocks. Another street is all sunglasses.  Another street is all motorbike saddle repair.  Apparently Hanoi's merchants used to be organized according to what guild they belonged to, and this practice continues to some extent today.  We are all perplexed of how this can work.  Can it be really still be profitable for a merchant to be located right next to all your competitors, and how does one decide which place to buy their adidas?
The list of Old Quarter streets dedicated to particular types of merchandise.

All the action is on the street, not inside houses.  Here, kids play some street checkers.

Burning trash 

Again must document the beautiful Jack Fruit

Wish that when we tell people where we're from, they knew something more that this chain.  Alas.

They make a sugar cane juice here on the streets, it's not our favorite bevvie, but does produce some impressive debris. 

We spent a few hours at the Museum of ethnology learning about the many ethnic tribes that still live in VIetnam.  The coolest part was the outdoor complex where they have recreated tribal houses, community buildings, and funeral vessels.  We loved walking around and looking at the impressive carpentry. 

tribal spirit house

A tribal ceremonial coffin for the "second funeral," a relocation and reburial of remains performed about five years after the original burial so that the departed can truly leave their connection with the physical world.

tribal fertility totem

ladders from solid tree trunks, way cool 

hugest ceiling

a water puppet theater

Painted woven basket trays.

Lach has decided to practice up for the travels he plans to take as his 20 year old backpacker self.  

Date night escape at a very cool bar with real IPAs.  

Being together 24 hrs a day, we are all very aware of our respective food intake.  This guy is growing on this trip literally before our eyes--he's probably 6'2 by now.  Here is the "large" veg burger Fin ordered.  We never thought he could actually finish it.  Yep he did.  He is rarely full these days. 

Whit bought a travel chess board from this sweet woman.

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