03 September 2008

day 1 - hanoi

after a 3 hour light, we were picked our by our tour guide, mr huang or more easily known as david. with his advised to change the USD we have to VND (vietnam dong) so that it'll be easier whenever we want to do shopping as the rates for VND is lower than USD. so i changed only USD50 and in return i got VND 834,000. ahaks! well, USD1 = VND 16,000 (that's why)

checked in and after lunch, headed to the ho chi minh mausoleum. the mausoleum of president ho chi minh (HCM) was officially inaugurated on august 29, 1975. the mausoleum faces the historic ba dinh square (this looks smilar to the tianamen square in china) the remains of ho chi minh is kept in the mausoleum. constructed between 1973 to 1975 on the foundations of the old rostrum in ba dinh square where president HCM used to chair national moeetings. i managed to watch the guards change shift like the ones we have at istana negara.

ho chi minh mausoleum

the soldiers changing shifts

next stop - one pillar pagoda. built in 1049 by emperor ly thai tong based on a dream that he had. he dreamt that the goddess of mercy (quan the am bo tat) while seated on a lotus flower handed him a male child. the one pillar pagoda is designed in the shape of a lotus flower blooming in a square water tank (which is the square pond with lotus in it).

one pillar gondala and the square pond

most of us looked tired by now, but we went for the water puppet theatre - a must see. nha hat mua roi thang long (thang long water puppet theatre) based on a folk tale, it started with musicians playing folk song with traditional instruments. i barely understand what they are singing or speak in their dialogues throughout the show but it was fascinating. the puppeteers were very skilful in moving those puppets. i see the snake, the character swimming, on the boat and even a cat/wolf catching a mouse and later climbing up a tree! yes, it was enjoyable but most of us were already tired and in that dark cinema like theatre, most of us took 40 winks. =p didn't take much picture though since our seats were way at the back and i do not have a zoom lens.

craft : lacquer : using eggshells

opposite the theatre is the hoan kiem lake, ngoc son temple, turtle tower and the huc bridge. hoan kiem lake is situated in the center of the city. in the mid-15th century, emperor ly thai tong had a magical sword given by the heaven. after driving the chinese out of vietnam, one day while he was boating out, a giant golden tortoise emerged and grabbed his sword and disappeared into the lake. the tortoise then restored the sword to its divine owner (i'm curious, if the sword is given, why return? but that was what i was being told. so..)

the huc bridge is a red painted bridge which is fitted with red coloured lights which glows in red at night links us to the ngoc son temple. there we get to see a huge turtle in a glass cabinet (i wonder if it is that turtle which grabbed the emperor's sword).

ngoc son temple doors

now to fill our hungry stomachs! i forgot the name of the restaurant. darn! everything looks yummy for all of us tired and wanting food, so with no idea if the name of the food, we walked around with the menu in our hand asking the waitress to point to us what they were cooking (the cook like they have many separate stalls at the open air part of the restaurant just as we enter). food was ok. only that the same ingredient is used to cook for about 3 other dishes in different style. a lot in the menu, but seems like everything is just the same.

ah... weekends = night market! marched up to hang dao street and what more! we gathered up our bargaining skills that we learnt from our malaysian night market and started shopping. our minds started to calculate more than ever at that time converting from VND to USD and then to MYR. phew..i wonder how many bags the girls have bought in total. it's cheaper than buying it here. well, some of it. maybe about MYR10-20 cheaper. it depends.

with our happy faces, bags of goodies and tired body, we headed back to the hotel for a good bath and sleep as we will be going to halong bay the next day!

*pictures unedited

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