donata: (Intrepid)
[personal profile] donata
*I originally wanted to write: “penniless in Hanoi”, but, well, the Vietnamese currency is called Dong after all, and it sure opens the floodgates for many more punes-or-plays-on-words.
*is Cracked reader*

So, Vietnam. After a 10-hour non-stop flight spent in the last row with no windows, we arrived in Hanoi at half past seven in the morning, on Saturday, December 29 (this will become important). It being half past seven in the morning, we had to wait till out hotel rooms were ready, as the previous guests had selfishly not checked out yet. And so we decided to pick up some local money and go for a coffee.

Literature Temple

I picked up a couple of millions Dong at an ATM around the corner. My Travel Companions tried the same and failed miserably due to unforeseeable circumstances. There we were, then: on the very first day of a five-week holiday in South-East Asia, and only one of us was able to access their bank account. The fact that it was Saturday, December 29 was insofar relevant as it was the weekend before New Year’s Eve, and therefore no German bank would be available for troubleshooting until the following Wednesday.

Volker geldlos
This is Volker and his almost completely useless wallet.

weihnachtliche Bank
And this is one of the many, many banks we visited that morning that refused to give Travel Companions any money. Pretty decorations, though.

Honeymoon Suite
When, some four hours and several serious discussions later, we were finally allowed to check in, the nice lady at the reception told Axel and me: “We upgraded you for the Honeymoon Suite.” (They were not aware, at that point, of our dire financial straits.) I was very impressed by the darling little flowers on our bed, until Volker, who had a single room all to himself, told me that he had been given flowers as well. I think the whole Honeymoon Suite thing is a scam: they tell all guests that they’d been given the Honeymoon Suite to make them feel Speshul.

Once rested and regrouped, we went exploring (food and drinks, mainly).

Our first brush with Vietnamese cuisine:
Maggi Kochstudio
Maggi Kochstudio

And the best eatery in Hanoi:
Kebab Haus
Seriously. We stumbled into the place quite by accident, and it turned out to serve the best kebab ever. The proprietor is a Vietnamese bloke who's lived in Berlin for 20 year and has been running a kebab place there together with a Turkish business partner. And because kebab is very popular in Hanoi, he decided to import the real thing. We were very impressed by the quality of the food.

It turns out you can have a lot of fun in Hanoi even when your credit cards aren't working. On New Year's Eve, we went out for a meal in a rooftop restaurant which afforded us this view:
New Year's Eve

Vietnam is very interesting in demographic terms: according to various sources, more than 60% of the Vietnamese population is under 30 years old. In Hanoi, you can absolutely see that. The city swarms with young people, all of whom own an iPhone and a scooter. And, in fact, assorted iAccessories:

Apple bag
This girl was the first of hundreds we encountered carrying or wearing Apple fashion accessories. Srsly, Apple is a major fashion brand in Vietnam: you can buy Apple t-shirts, sweatshirts, flip-flops, face masks, caps and hats… I was quite tempted to get a face mask, but I didn't like the design. In the end, I didn't buy any Apple products at all (which was probably a wise step, because in Europe Apple would sue the hell out of me).

This is what an Apple face mask looks like:
Apple mask

On New Year's Eve, the whole city was awash with young people in party mood. We went for a walk around the Hoan Kiem Lake, and so, in fact, did everybody else. (However, it being a good Socialist country, the fun was over half an hour after the stroke of midnight. We were grudgingly allowed to finish our bottle of wine, but the place was already closing down and then it was back to our Honeymoon Suite to raid the mini bar and hang out on the balcony.)

But, the lake was very pretty and very shiny:

Hoan Kiem

Hoan Kiem

Hoan Kiem

The Hoan Kiem Lake is home to the Golden Turtle God who held aloft a magic sword from the bosom of the water and bestowed it on an early Vietnamese emperor and then took it away from him, in manner of the Lady of the Lake performing a farcical aquatic ceremony (thanks, Michael Palin):

In keeping with the theme of money-less-ness, we naturally went to see the great Communist leader Ho Chi Minh (or “Uncle Ho”, as we now call him) in his final resting place:


You have to get up really early – which is always fun on the first day of your holiday – because the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is only open in the mornings and literally thousands of visitors are driven through it like cattle within the space of a few hours. It is forbidden to take photographs of Uncle Ho's corpse (it could just as well be a wax figure for all I know) that is displayed in a glass case and you must not, under any circumstances, put your hands in your pockets. (I got told off by the guards for doing exactly that.) It's probably treason or something.

After getting acquainted with Uncle Ho, we (especially my Travel Companions) have become quite enamoured with him.

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Not only was he a sociable smoker

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and friend to all living things,

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he was also a fun guy to be around.

This is the Ho Chi Minh Museum:
HCM museum

Inside, it's just a tiny little bit mad and not at all like what you'd imagine:
HCM museum

HCM museum

Well, okay, so this part is exactly like what you'd imagine:
HCM museum

One of Axel and mine favourite exhibits was Uncle Ho's safety blanket ("Schnüffeltuch"), but we didn't get a picture of it, alas.

Here are Axel and Volker hero-worshipping the Great Leader:
HCM Gruß

HCM Gruß

Who, in turn, used to worship two of the Greatest, whose portraits hung in his study:

Ain't this a sweet ride?
Pimp my ride
Obvsly, Uncle Ho travelled in style.

And the moment you leave the Socialist Theme Park, this is the first thing you're confronted with:

But Hanoi not just about Ho Chi Minh. In fact, the four days we spent in Hanoi were spent mostly in museums. Because we just love Culture so much.

Prisoners in stock
The prison museum, with prisoners in stocks. They look surprisingly relaxed, almost lounging.

John McCain
John McCain, being PoW and getting turned into a Manchurian Candidate (as Paul Merton once suggested).

Ah, la guillotine portable! One of France's greatest gifts to Vietnam (the others being wine and baguette).

Axel and Volker being affectionate with each other in the Literature Temple.

Water puppets

Water puppets
Water puppets in the Literature Temple. I know I always say that, but they are clearly out to kill us all. Just look at them.

Kong Zi
This might be Confucius (and his twin brother?), but more importantly, this is the place where a business plan was born: You see, we visited a lot (a lot) of temples, and on each altar there's a dish in which people leave money. Seeing as Travel Companions were dongless*, I suggested they'd go a-pillaging and pilfering in Buddhist temples. Because this is the sort of person that I am.

*I actually giggled when I typed this, I'm pathetic.

And then there was the Museum of Fine Arts:
Buddhism, as Stephen Fry once said, has the reputation of being the sane religion. You can totally see why.

Breast vase
Random breast vase ("base"?).

Breast stairs
They do like breasts there. We weren't quite sure whether you were supposed to hold on to them when you climbed up the stairs to the house.

Community house
This impressively tall structure (23 metres, IIRC) is a traditional community house of one of the ethnic minorities. It's really quite stunning.

Celeb shot
When we visited it, a girl came up to me and asked to have a picture taken with me (i.e. the tall blonde foreigner).

Bike of burden
I wish I had seen this one in actual motion.

This, believe it or not, is a tomb and a punchline.
From: [personal profile] volker
Hanoi in winter is cold! Only 12 degrees, rain and less sun... this was definetly a new experience in south east asia! Another experience: No party on new year`s bar, no club, no restaurant...everything was closed after 0:30 - controlled by the police...Summary: The communists do not celebrate --> hmmm... they miss something, the poor communists:-) - So it's worth to visit the hanoi-maggi-kochstudio (see above) the food was delicous, enough and quite cheap...

Do it!


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