24 September, 2008


From Quy Nhon, Tamsin and I flew to Hanoi, via Da Nang. The airport at Da Nang must be one of the nastiest, dullest airports I've seen and so T. and I took advantage of the linguistic abilities of Alan, a VSA worker who was traveling that far with us, to arrange a trip to the Cham museum for a couple of hours between our flights.

Besides the Cham museum (and China Beach) Da Nang's other highlight is it's canyfloss pink church --- though if you arrive at lunch time you won't be able to get in on account of the guard taking a break from lunch and locking the entrance gates.

Ha Noi has a different look and feel from HCMC and Quy Nhon. A lot of this stems from the colonial architecture that still survives, albeit in increasingly dilapidated states. This spans from the grandiose buildings like the opera house and metropolitan hotel, though to streets of small shops and houses with rusting fretwork and crumbling balconies. We were fortunate that our hotel was in the centre of the old-quarter where the concentration of these buildings is greatest.

We also had an excellent vegetarian cafe directly opposite us. This served some of the tastiest food we had in Vietnam, some of the tastiest drinks too with excellent fruit cocktails (with the odd bad one mixed in for variety). We visited a couple of cultural sites during our two days there. The Temple of literature which touts itself as the oldest university in Vietnam was a collection of carved stone tablets.

Its surrounding gardens were pretty and the whole thing worth visiting but it didn't catch my attention the same way that the forest of steeles at Xi'an in China did
The museum of Vietnamese art was good though it was depressing to see works stored and shown in such bad conditions (both the roof and the floor were letting in water) and with such little information. Are my museum expectations now a product of the Te Papas of the world where every article come accompanied by an interactive educational display?

Most of the time, however, we spent just wandering around the city. Looking at the markets with their amazing stalls of pirated DVDs, pet rabbits and turtles for making into a tasty soup.

And admiring the government propaganda; Uncle Ho may be dead (and interred on display in a public mausoleum) but his spirit lives on particularly strongly in Ha Noi

Here's the Picasa gallery with more Ha Noi photos.