Talk about culture shock

Attempt number two to get to Vietnam was successful, luckily.  We once again awoke at 3:30 a.m., although we had gone to bed slightly earlier this time so it wasn't quite as torturous.  We arrived in Hanoi at 9:00 in the morning and stored our bags so we could go explore the city for the day before our 8:00 p.m. flight to Hue.  I have to say, I thought Bangkok was quite an interesting place and very different from the US.  I didn't realize how americanized and touristy it was until we got to Hanoi.

We went from the airport directly to Dong Xuang market. The center of Hanoin life. Terrified to get out of the cab we wandered through the market aimlessly while vendors and the hundreds of residents watched us like a dog walking on its hind legs.

 veggies for sale
 beans rice and other grains
 Fried dough balls. Yum

We dodged motorcylces, cars, buses and vans as one must do to cross the street in Hanoi, until we finally found a hotel with a receptionist who spoke enough English to figure out that we needed a map. Faith in humanity restored we began our trek towards Hoan Kiem Lake. We wandered around the edges and chose to skip the crowded bridge across the water but instead to look at it from the side of the lake...and then we became a tourist attraction. Apparently we are like celebrities in Vietnam as we were approached by a group of teenagers who were desperate to take a picture with us. I told them they could snap one with me if I could do the same.

 The bridge over hoan kiem

my fans

 Few people in Vietnam speak more English than "Hello". In Bangkok even if you never learned to speak it everyone knows at least two words "How much?" This simple phrase will get you a price typed up on a calculator on any street corner or in any shop. In Hanoi, you get stared at blankly. Then you get a quick response in Vietnamese and the person you asked your very important question to hustles away quickly.
So with our map in hand and no help from the citizens of hanoi we bumbled up the road to the one pillar pagoda and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. We passed the citadel and old vietnamese style architecture on the way. The one pillar pagoda was built by the emperor Ly Thai Thong to commemorate a dream he had about the Goddess of mercy handing him a male child while he was seated on a Lotus flower. Shortly after his dream he married and impregnated a peasant woman creating and heir to the throne. The pagoda, sitting on top of a pillar, is supposed to be the lotus blossom that he sat on. Frankly, we both expected something slightly more grand. While the story was fascinating the pagoda was about the size of our kitchen. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was closed for the afternoon so we could only view it from the outside but it was quite impressive.

 The citadel
Allison and I posing behind the one pillar pagoda

With tired feet we got into the Hanoi version of a tuktuk, which is a bike with a metal cart on the front that two people can not easily squeeze into, and treated ourselves to a ride back towards the market for only 120,000 vietnamese dong (roughly $6).  We enjoyed some tasty Vietnamese food (squid with butter and garlic for me and Fried noodles with veggies for Allison) and then hopped a cab back to the airport.  So here we are waiting for flight number two of the day to Hue.

Our mishap yesterday is even less upsetting now that I have seen everything I want to see in Hanoi and we were fortunate enough to spend an extra, fabulous, day in Bangkok.

On a more serious note, today we saw a whole Dog sitting cooked to a crispy brown on a grill on the street.  To my dear dane Eddie, I love you with all my heart and now I hope you understand why I had to leave you home while I travel through Asia.  I could not bear the thought of losing you to a Vietnamese family's dinner table.  Miss you much pupper.

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