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Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 15: Exploring the French Quarter in Hanoi

I read somewhere, that
"Hanoi is a city with a blend of Parisian grace and Asian pace!" 
I'd definitely have to agree with whoever said that!

This morning, we lounged around at the hotel for a bit, had some breakfast in the lobby, and then headed out, through the windy, narrow streets of the Old Quarter!  Aaron spotted this GIGANTIC broom, leaning against a light pole, and being that I love to clean, I found it fitting that I do my part to clean an area of the sidewalk! :)

For whatever reason, Vietnamese love to hang bird cages in the trees, in front of their shops, over cafe patios... you name it!  They're everywhere!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you know!

We decided to head back to the area where we had lunch our very first day in Hanoi! 
So, we took a taxi through the tree lined streets, north of the Old Quarter!

We ate on the patio of the same old historic mansion that we had visited last week, and had delicious fried noodles and chicken with a beer and a strawberry milkshake to top it off!

Then we took a REALLY long walk... I would guess maybe 4 miles, down the tree lined streets of this stunning area...

... where tons of gorgeous old french mansions have been transformed into government buildings.  SAD

After a long, long, long, walk in the heat and humidity, we jumped into the first air conditioned cafe we could find!  Highlands is actually quite famous in Hanoi!  It was started by a Vietnamese guy who grew up in Seattle, and fell in love with Coffee!  He came back to Hanoi and ultimately opened his first cafe!  I'm really thankful he did, because the carrot cake and cold coffee were delicious!

After feeling refreshed and cooled off, we headed back out for another walk, to see what we could find in Hanoi!  Most shop owners actually live above their shops, and can sometimes be seen peeking out their windows, or standing on the balconies of their 2nd floor abodes!

Hanoi's version of an ice cream truck, complete with ice cream truck music and all!

Aaron and I had read about this famous Banyan tree at 85 Hang Gai Street, where Buddhists come to light incense, a gesture they believe gives them great luck!  We were eager to find it and see what it was all about! 

Aaron gave it a shot... not because he thought he would be more lucky, but because he wanted to take a couple shots of the incense burning in the tree!

Here it is folks, the token Vietnamese conical hat photo!  I had to do it.

We made it back around to the lake, and I just plain couldn't resist climbing out to this gigantic tree that had grown from the sidewalk into the lake!  I didn't mean to, but I ended up drawing quite a crowd as I carefully managed my way over to it.  I'm sure everyone was waiting for the foreign girl to slip and fall into the lake!  What they didn't know is that I was a gymnast for 10 years!  I'm no stranger to walking while balancing!

We felt like we had walked all the streets of the old quarter a couple times over...
... so, we jumped on the tourist wagon and headed to see the Water Puppet Show!  ($5 per person) Water puppetry is a tradition that dates back as far at the 11th century CE in Vietnam!  When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other with these types of puppets. When the show first started, we kind of looked at each other, laughed, and said "What have we just paid for?"  But then, as the show went on, it got a bit more entertaining (for me at least)!  Here's a little video of one of the opening acts.

The way it works is, 6-8 puppeteers stand behind the split-bamboo screen (under the temple facade), and control the puppets using long bamboo rods and string mechanism hidden below the water. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra played all the background music and chèo singers (a form of opera originating in north Vietnam) sang all of the songs, which told the story being acted out by the puppets.

After the show, Aaron wasn't feeling so great, so he headed back to the hotel while I headed over to the night market, which runs North to South from P Hang Giay to P Hang Dao.

While there were hundreds of stalls (literally), I actually didn't find anything I couldn't live without!

So, I walked the path, along the lake, back to the hotel, stopping here and there, to people watch and take in the beauty of the nightscape!

All around Hoan Keim lake, bright-lit, ball shaped, ornaments are hung from the trees.  So at night, when they turn on, they cast beautiful colors into the water!

By this point, it was late and I was missing my partner in crime, so I grabbed some dinner and headed back to the hotel! 

Tomorrow is my last day in Vietnam, before I catch the plane back to Korea!  I'm hoping to spend it lounging in cafe's and indulging in all the yummy food this city has to offer!  One last splurge before going back to real life!

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