Friday, August 15, 2008

Day 2 in Hanoi...

Today we spent exploring the city. We found the most western looking cafe we could for breakfast as we weren't up for noodles surprisingly. Breakfast is probably the most difficult meal to find here. A lot of western places have what they call an American breakfast, which is basically bacon and eggs. Finding something like toast or cereal can be a little harder.

After breakfast we set off for market which was set in the top part of the old quarter. What you soon start to notice as you wander around the streets is that all the shops are kind of grouped in categories. You can walk through the 'electrical district' and there will be many shops selling similar products. It's the same for hats, shoes,
clothes... pretty much anything you can think of.

So we began strolling through the clothing district. It was pretty much like walking past 200 of those cheap Asian stores back home. They all seemed to be selling pretty much identical clothing; cheap looking studded jeans and tshirts, some sporting fake brand names. We had grand plans to buy a light pair of pants to wear inside temples though finding something like that was SO hard.

We found the market after much walking. Set inside, this market was like a 3 story $2 shop. Everything you could imagine was sold here (well apart from the pants we wanted, LOL). Unlike the market back home this place was like a rabbit warren with the aisles only wide enough for 1. Every now and then there would be an enormous hole in the floor that you had to climb over precariously.

After our market exerience we continued to look around the streets. Walking the streets can be challenge enough in Hanoi but I seemed to have a knack for getting dangerously close to the boiling pots the street venders were using to cook. That seems to be on par with walking to close to the exhaust of a motorbike.

After much walking we caught our first cyclo back down towards the lake. Settling on a price first is key to not being ripped off. I think we agreed on 20 000 dong for the trip which is about $1.50. We sped through the streets with motor bikes and cars coming at us from all angles. With no horn on our cyclo the driver simply went 'beep beep' to alert of our presence.

We arrived at the lake and decided to pay a visit to the temple in the middle of the lake. It is said that giant tortoises live in lake though they haven't been seen for years. On the island they displayed one that was from the lake that had been embalmed. It certainly lived up to the 'giant' name. Inside the temple it was interesting to see the offerings surrounding the figures of worship. Coke, beer, cakes, cigarettes and money. People seemed to be offering plates to the figures as well containing similar things.

Next on the agenda was to find a tour for Halong Bay. With scams being so abundant in Vietnam it isn't as easy as walking into the first place you see. After much walking, talking and assessing (with a little lunch in between) we decided on and booked a tour for later in the week.

After visiting another small temple in the middle of town we began walking again. Strolling back to our hotel Andy spotted a skateshop! Not something that either of us expected to see here. I still can't figure out where on earth they would be able to skate! Filled with of the same sorts of things you would see back home I spotted a jumper and fell in love. LOL. Designed and made here I decided it would be the most perfect imperfect souvenir and bought it.

Walking back to the hotel we seemed to notice things that we'd never seen before. Like the supermarket type store at the end of our alley way. Having seen these cakes called Custas being an offering in the temple I wanted to try them myself. Yum! I can see myself craving these back home.

After resting we consulted our LP guide for dinner suggestions and chose New Day restaurant in the top part of town. We caught a cyclo but even with a map we seemed to be no where near the restaurant. A short walk and we found it. More yummy food a stroll back to the hotel and our second day in Hanoi was done.

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