August 26, 2014

Hanoi, Vietnam: The Layover Tour pt. 1

Like any other city, Hanoi has it's own distinct personality. It's calm and charming atmosphere is a huge contrast compared to the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh. This was our last stop for our week-long Cambodia-Vietnam trip. We weren't able to see Halong Bay due to limited time, but we still enjoyed this laid back city (compared to Saigon) even just for a day. In case you're visiting Hanoi for a day, make sure to include these places in your itinerary.

I'm gonna need longer broom sticks if i'm gonna have a place like this.
From Ho Chi Minh, we traveled 4 hours via VietJet and arrived at the Hanoi Domestic and International Airport at 11pm. I swear, if you have other options rather than riding VietJet, go for it. Our flight got delayed by 2 hrs and we kept on switching terminals like we were playing for the Amazing Race. Kai and I were extremely exhausted by the time we got to the airport. Good thing we had our airport transfer arranged earlier. Otherwise, we wouldn't have the energy to spot and hail a cab that wouldn't scam us.

Hanoi Domestic and International Airport
Our hotel was located at the Old Backpackers District. We were relieved to see that the deal we got on Groupon was totally worth it. We haven't had dinner yet and all the restaurants were closed so Kai and I asked for a masseuse instead. 

Staff was friendly and very accommodating
You gotta love our room :)
We woke up early the next morning and availed our Groupon's free breakfast buffet while waiting for our tour guide.

Our van arrived on time and our city tour began. Like any other tour, our group was a pretty diverse one. The tour guide asked everyone to introduce and share interesting trivia about themselves best reserved for icebreakers. Going back to the tour, our first stop was at the Quan Thanh temple. 

Trivia: Hanoi was derived from the word Ha (river) and Noi (inside).
You can see a better panoramic view of Hanoi from here.

The gates of Quan Thanh
Unlike Cao Daism, this is a Taoist temple
Not just any temple, this is considered as one of the four sacred temples in Hanoi.
the bronze buddha
The lovely garden fountain outside

According to Wikipedia... It is also a training venue for several traditional martial art classes including Vovinam. 
Our next stop was at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, one of the popular tourist spots in Hanoi. It is said that Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam's iconic leader, requested that his ashes to be scattered across Vietnam. A part of his remains lay here.

Ho Chi Minh's partial remains
Tourist shot
Thanks to this shot, some of our group mates asked us how to achieve the panoramic effect on their mobile device. (I found her adorable because she's 55, and retired police woman who's been traveling around Vietnam.) Moving on... we head on inside and pass by the Presidential Palace.

And it was all yellow...
One of Ho Chi Minh's bulletproof cars
During this tour, Kai discovered her favorite drink
We rested for a bit at the One Pillar Pagoda. The area was too small and crowded so I just got myself a spot to rest and observe some students, sketching for their outdoor class. (It reminds me of my college days when we had to do freehand drawing under the sun). This time, we took the time to chat with our tour guide, and one of our tour mates from Texas. On our way out, it was time to unleash those jump shots.

Kai took the risk of jumping with her sprained foot
I jumped my heart out and didn't care about the rest
We also went to the Museum of Ethnology to learn more about Vietnam's ethnic roots. I consider this as one of the highlights of the tour.

Interesting piece of Architecture we got here

Old school silk screen printing

The Bamboo lunar calendar. Just thinking about how to make this work gives me a headache!
Kai attending a ritual
Posing at this huge diorama

This is where fishermen place their fresh catch
And of course, the fertility house
You can also see the different ethnic groups of Vietnam in this chart
This is how you make the iconic Vietnamese conical hat aka the "Non La"
After the tour, our guide led us outside to see more ethnic homes in dioramas. 
Puppet show stage (at night)
This piqued my interest.

What you see inside this huge hut:

To sum it up, this whole exhibit gave me a very informative tour on the rich culture of Vietnam. Learning the way they lived is interesting enough to see on paper. But to see it in a larger than life diorama? I say this goes to my interesting list of stories to share when I tell my friends what to see in Hanoi. In case you're in the capital, check this pretty neat museum. Opening hours is 8:30am to 5:30pm Tuesday to Sunday.

Check out the rest of my Hanoi tales on my next entry. Hope you enjoyed this one. :)