I checked into the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel at 1am where I was reunited with Rich (Jake was asleep/drunk so I left him to it). I then proceeded to spend the next few hours reconnecting with the world of news, social media and Google! I have missed you all.
The next morning Rich and I did a free walking tour of Hanoi that’s offered daily by our hostel. We were advised on the specialty foods of Vietnam and wandered around the markets, streets, a small temple – at this point the heavens opened and it rained. So we continued our tour in style…
We ended our tour on a roof top cafe where we all tried egg coffee – first of all, this cafe had minimal signage and was on top of a silk shop so I’m so glad we did this tour to be united with this hidden gem (apparently it’s also recommended on Lonely Planet) and egg coffee is AMAZING!
Once Jake had recovered from his hangover, we bused it over to the other end of the city to see the B52 plane that you can see submerged in a lake from the 1970’s. It was so interesting to see and strangely is located next to a school and housing estate – I liked how this historic occurrence is untouched and people continue to live simply around it. I’m really keen to visit a few museums around Vietnam to learn more about the war. I realise I know very little on the history of Vietnam.
As we came back to the hostel I was reunited with 4 Dragon’s from China!!! That evening we ate Pho Chicken noodles, had more egg coffee and a few beers. As much as I know I’ll meet lots of amazing people travelling, these guys will really hold a special place for me – so I wished them well as Meg and Adam headed to Laos and the boys James and Rob bought bikes to travel Vietnam. I’m sure I’ll bump into more Dragons as I tour the East.
Today the toiletry fairy arrived. A nice girl from Essex with a very heavy backpack decided to donate her toiletries to any females interested. Free stuff? I’m there!! And on the sink of our shared bathroom were items I could only dream about as a traveller… Cartier Perfume, Benefit products, Liz Earle products, facial washes, skin cleaners, Garnier body lotion – hello little precious gems of luxury! I doubt I can carry any of these items – my bag weights the same as Rich and Jake’s bags combined. But I really couldnt say no! At some point on this trip I really need to evaluate the stuff I have.
This day we went to Lilys Travels (a travel agent I highly recommend) where we booked our 4 nights in Sapa and 2 nights in Halong Bay. The best thing about meeting people in hostels is that you get so many recommendations that you just seem to base your trip around that. So we had the next week organised.
Following a lazy/getting organised day yesterday we knew we needed to make the most of our last day in Hanoi before our 8.30pm night bus.
We had three destinations to ticks off:
- Women’s Museum (believe it or not, wasn’t my idea)
- Prison (recommended by a few people in our hostel)
- Water Puppet show (recommended by a friend at home)
I was actually really impressed by the women’s museum, it’s rare that I go to a museum and read almost all the information and I even tried to take notes. My main interest was the section on marriage and pregnancy. I learned about rituals on protecting the foetus during pregnancy which includes sacrificing dogs to chase out evil. And after ‘ede babies’ are borm they’re named 3 days after – If they cry you give them another name.
On marriage many different Vietnamese societies with different marriage rituals. I mainly read about patrilineal and matrilineal societies and how they differ. Choosing a partner is usually decided by families of similar status but nowadays young people choose more freely. However I thought British weddings were hard work, Vietnamese weddings seem to go even further… There are often more than one ceremony over a couple of years and lots of gifts (livestock/jewellery/bowls) shared between families and traditions of engagements, official visits to each others homes, mediation, fortune tellers for the best wedding date!
Other floors in the Women’s museum included information on clothing, mother god and about women kicking arse in the war between 1954 and 1975 – really impressive information! Well worth going to.
Following this we went to the Prison. This was really eirry and it was shocking to see the conditions of the prison only 40 year’s ago. The main people to be taken here were political protesters so they were just innocent people fighting for a better country. They were only fed rotten food so the prisoners got ill alot and often died. However the propaganda video we watched at the end about the American prisoners of war was completely contradictory to the inhumane treatment of Vietnamese prisoners – it showed how happy they were and how their perception of Vietnam changed because of how well they were taken care of. Hmm.
I had heard mixed reviews about Hanoi on arrival and after a shaky first impression I actually quite like the place! The hostel made it very easy with maps to help you find museums around the city. I could easily come back to explore more. I don’t think I could live here though as the traffic is bonkers!