I wasn't even meant to be here.
It was as a last minute as you could get.
You need a visa to get in and I got the 24 hours express one.
You know that saying - Wanna make God laugh? Make plans.
It was worse being Mercury retrograde -
none of my travel plans were going to the schedule.
My meeting with family got changed and one of my friends who was meant to join me had a family situation arise at the last minute.
I was going to be traveling alone a lot longer than I thought.
The jet lag was hitting me a lot harder than normal so I decided to make the most of my proximity and went.
I did it through the very scientific method of
eenie meenie minie mo and chose Hanoi.
I arrived at Calypso Garden Hotel in the Chinatown of Hanoi.
Very comfortable and clean
$50 bucks a night. In London, you would get didley squat. Actually, you would get the squat but no didley.
It was in an alleyway that I would have never otherwise ventured through.
It was a real local market and not geared for tourists.
This was a bit distressing because I like turtles but then again I did have turtle soup in New Orleans once so this is how you start making it...
Don't ask me why but the paint and the staircase was just so
I went to the famous temple in the lake 5 minutes away from my hotel.
The temples in general were a derivative of Confucian and Taoist tradition with a Vietnamese touch.
I can so see a movie being shot here because it was very graphic.
I have a thing for trees with exposed roots.
Inside the temple was a swath of red.
They had these type of fruit trees pretty much everywhere as they are meant to bring good luck and fertility.
The lake is and was home to a rare type of turtle hence its dedication on the gates to the temple.
I didn't know but their spring is the height of wedding season.
I love the accessories like the flower basket and the Hermes belt kit.
Act natural guys.
Don't you do this when you go to the park with your partner?
There is that flower basket again!
It was also the beginning of cherry blossom season.
Look at all the couples in almost equidistant pairings.
There is another lone pagoda in the middle of the lake dedicated to - well, someone.
Didn't take an official tour.
A lovely sign of economic progress.
Women who think they need to keep fit and lose weight
( not that they are fat ).
The thing is, Zumba hasn't really taken off in third world countries.
A makeshift gym for the lads.
I decided to have a snack in this lovely lakeside cafe.
I had the most amazing spring rolls - ever.
I am a bit of a foodie and I have lived in Melbourne that due to its sizable Vietnamese population has great Vietnamese restaurants but this was something else.
I told the waitress that they were sooo amazing and delicious.
She nodded politely and said - yes, nem.
( Nem being the Vietnamese word for spring rolls.)
No, I said, you don't understand -
they are THE best I have ever tasted.
She must have thought I was a bit nuts because she went back to her colleagues looking at me and repeating '"nem" and shrugging her shoulders.
Then I realized that if a Vietnamese tourist went to a pub
and was like -
Oh my god, this ham and cheese sandwich is amazing!
What's in this thing?
This is THE best ham and cheese sandwich I have ever eaten!
Well, the waitress would be thinking, "Calm down love, it's just a bloody sandwich.".
I walked past loads of cafes like this on the way to the Hanoi Hilton - the famous prison.
The French influence was dotted everywhere.
Was a bit disconcerting - even though I knew of its French colonial past, it still was intriguing.
Not a bike shop but a parking lot.
Love the makeshift attitude in Asia.
I may be doing this to my sofa...
Entrance to the Hanoi Hilton.
If you didn't know better you cold have thought it was a local government office or a hotel.
Is it wrong that I am admiring the original tiles which were the officers' section?
Women played a huge central part in the history of Vietnam: both against the French and the Americans.
I have to say that the feeling of chauvinism was not that prevalent here unlike other Asian countries.
The women here were tough and also just happened to be gorgeous.
This is a famous picture of a women sentenced to twenty years in prison.
She is smiling in defiance saying that the regime wouldn't last twenty years.
Her name was Vo Thi Thang.
Some of the handicraft work the female prisoners made.
This was a memorial erected in memory of all the prisoners.
Inside the prison - a re-enactment.
The hall between the cells.
Looking in the through the iron bars.
John McCain also spent a long time in this prison...
A vestige of the French past that was used... The guillotine.
Anyway, got outta there feeling rather heavy.
The museum was really interesting with so much to see but you get the picture...
It reminds me of the turbulent times Vietnam had in the past century.
So thank god I saw some kittens playing a few blocks away- lightened the mood.
Well, you know, you need a big gate to stop those trains getting in...
This was the entrance to one of the world's oldest universities.
It was built a thousand years ago.
These are memorial tablets of all the doctors who graduated.
Prerequisite water area for reflection and reflection.
Some more trees I love.
Then I rekindled my coffee habit.
The coffee in Vietnam is fantastic.
Better than Europe believe it or not.
Equal to the coffee in Australia.
For those of you who are not Australian, let me tell you,
Australia has the best coffee in the world!
Australia has the best coffee in the world!
This is their type of cafetiere which they call Tin.
Hanoi's answer to the Bugaboos.
I walked past the railroad again but on the way back to Chinatown.
This is St Joseph's cathedral - the main one in Hanoi.
Upstairs seating at a cafe opposite the church.
As it was Sunday afternoon - there were loads of people having snacks and coffee on the sidewalks.
Literally on the sidewalk - grab a stool.
The French definitely left the afternoon people watching cafe culture behind.
People chatting away with all those sunflower seeds you see smatterings of on the street.
The electric grid is still a bit rusty and needs upgrading.
To prevent the birds pecking away at the wires, they put crusts of rice at the botton of the poles so the birds eat that instead.
Walking past, there were just so many buildings to look at.
I just couldn't get enough of the architecture.
Don't ask me why but I have a thing for alleyways and the different tiles caught my attention.
Now this is the Chinatown section.
It is the craziest traffic I have ever seen and I grew up in Asia.
You were meant to just step into the street and the bikes and cars were meant to go around you.
But I stood and waited and waited.
I couldn't summon up the courage, I had no faith...
I only had three blocks to go.
I ended up taking a cab for the three blocks to my hotel.
The taxi driver thought I was a bit mad paying 3 bucks to get to my hotel but 3 bucks for your life is a bargain...
Well, I am having a bit of trouble uploading pics at the moment for many different technical and esoteric reasons so I won't be posting until I get back home in about a week's time so will catch up with you then...x