veggies for sale
beans rice and other grains
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
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.