it’s day three in hanoi and we’re still diggin it. a city of 3 million, its got an amazing amount of character and charm, of course with the daily tourist scams, but we’d be surprised if there weren’t any.
on our first day we walked around ‘old quarter‘ where we’re staying to get our barrings. first things first – coffee. the book raves about the coffee here so we gave it a try. the first cafe we saw was more of a club, but with a fabulous view so we said what the heck. on the 6th floor balcony we were overlooking the lake on one side and the old quarter on the other. and the coffee had like 6 shots of espresso, thick espresso, topped off with warm sweet milk, if you like…rip the enamel right off those pearly whites. this ‘cafe’ was something we could never afford to go to in the states as looked like the swankiest club in vegas…but for us, a mere $5.00 for two coffees and a pineapple/carrot shake…. sure not really on our backpackers budget, but what a view…
the old quarter definitely has a french feel to the architecture, but the streets are everything you’d expect of a bustling asian city. motor bikes, bicycles, and cars, zooming every which way. horns going off everywhere! but to tell you the truth, even a blind man could cross the road here, you just gotta keep moving (never stop!) and the traffic weaves around you like a river around a rock.
each street specializes in one thing, be it aluminum materials, silk cloth, musical instruments, chinese lanterns, flowers, plush toys, plastic toys, you name it. it’s like one giant store and each street serves as an aisle.
the lake we’re at has been here for thousands of years, hanoi itself is something like 545 days until its 1000 year anniversary (there’s banners and billboards countin’ down).
legend has it the dynastic leader at the time, ly, was sent a sword from the gods and defeated the chinese with it, and then a giant turtle
from this lake came up and grabbed it from his hands, taking it below and returning to the gods
where it came from…. still today there really are giant turtles in the lake, but you only see them maybe once every two years, so consider yourself damn lucky if you do! we did, but embalmed on a temple island on the lake, looks more like a giant seal or something stuffed in a shell….
water puppetry is an ancient form of entertainment, originally started at the rice paddies… the puppets are made from fig trees with dye from foods. they use a stick to move the puppets from afar, and back in the day, these experienced puppeteers would get water borne diseases. yuck. puppeteers have at least a minimum of 3 years experience. now, its done in theatres, clean water, and they wear waders. we saw it, pretty cool. check out the pics.