Amazing Vietnam Day 2: Explore Hanoi

Good morning, Hanoi!

Woke up with jumble feeling between tiredness, (still) sleepy, and excitement for today's schedule to explore the capital city of Vietnam.. yeayy! Sneaked from our room's window, we saw white gloomy sky outside there. Even worse, it was raining while we were in restaurant for breakfast. Why oh why, Hanoi should welcomed us with cloudy sky in the morning? It made us feel anxious and unenergized to face the day. Sigh…

Quoc Hoa's breakfast menu was not too vary, but proper enough for a 3 stars hotel. I loved their simple vegetable salad (already mixed with mayonnaise) using balsamic vinaigrette as dressing. 

There's also one menu I stared since the 1st time I entered that resto, it was Vinamilk yogurt. I read a testimonial about this Vietnamese local product on internet, so I was glad to found it here. I guessed this was  a sweetened plain yogurt, bcoz the word Đường means "sugar" in Vietnamese language.

Usually I don't like plain yogurt, but Vinamilk is an exception!

They put the cups in a bowl with ice cubes to keep the yogurt cold. I opened its lid and found thick yogurt like pudding inside. Usually I won't eat plain yogurt, but this Vinamilk product was really an exception. Its texture was soft and smooth, but not mushy. Liked its sweetness which just an average but fit my taste, and the most crucial one was its aroma. This yogurt didn't have a strong milk aroma which I always avoid from a dairy product. Somehow this brand just perfectly fits my palate. Bravo!

Yogurt pudding that I like so much

Last night we had agreed to start the programme at 9.30 am, so we went down to hotel lobby with all of our belongings and checked out... yes, 'coz we gonna move to another hotel this evening. We met Anthony, our guide, at lobby then he helped us to pack the suitcase in car's baggage. In minutes, we were ready to start the journey… and our 1st destination was the most renowned place in Hanoi.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum 
So sad, it was CLOSED that time. Dunno for what reason, either renovation (as we seen blue tarpaulin covered its entry gate) or the embalmed body had been in yearly treatment. Like another tourist that came at the morning, we could only saw the memorial building from outside. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh) placed in the centre of Independence Square (Ba Đình Square), where President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945.

Rain fell down while we were there, and got heavier right after we took pictures in front of Mausoleum. We only brought one umbrella, but luckily mom also brought her raincoat together. Too bad I left my waterproof jacket in the car, hate my lack anticipation! Felt a bit cold actually, but never mind!

Rainy morning in Hanoi

Mausoleum from the back side

Presidential Palace Historical Site
No. 1 Bach Thao, Ba Đình District, Hà Nội
Tel: +84 0804 4287/3226    
Opening hours: 7.30 - 11 am and 2 - 4 pm (summer), 8 - 11 am and 1.30 - 4 pm (winter)
                            every weekdays except on Monday & Friday afternoon

We walked around Mausoleum from its right side then we came to Presidential Palace Historical Site where Ho Chi Minh lived while he was president. In this complex we could see Presidential Palace, the former Indochina's General Governor Palace. Its French colonial architecture looks beautiful from outside, painted in mustard yellow color. President Ho used the palace to receive state guests, but refused to live there. This palace is not open for public so tourist can only see it from far distance behind the fence. Unfortunately it was raining so heavy when we passed around the palace so I didn't get any pic of it. 

Instead of lived in the luxurious palace, President Ho chose a small house behind the palace. House No. 54, how it called, consists of a bedroom, a dining room, and a study room. Each room simply designed with few furnitures only, hard to believe that a president ever lived there.

Visitors could closely see the historic Uncle Ho's Stilt House (Nha San Thang Ho) where the national hero lived his daily life as a president. Talking about the presidential house, it wasn't luxurious, huge, nor massive building like our perception of a "usual" president's house. This wooden house looked very unpretentious, simple, and close to the nature. Its 2nd floor consists of a bedroom and a study room only, while 1st floor used as a meeting room and president's office.

The famous Uncle Ho's Stilt House
Ho Chi Minh lived here from that date to his death in 1969
A study room that once occupied a president

There are a large fish ponds and gardens with lots of trees and plants. The most unique tree I saw in this ground was Cypress (Buddha's tree) which roots came out from water.

Love the details so much!
A bright souvenir shop
A beloved national hero for Vietnam people 

One Pillar Pagoda
The One Pillar Pagoda (Chùa Một Cột) stands in the park behind the Ho Chi Minh museum. This small and unique pagoda rises on one pillar only, represents a lotus flower.
The temple was built by Emperor Lý Thái Tông, who ruled from 1028 to 1054. According to the court records, Lý Thái Tông was childless and dreamt that he met the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who handed him a baby son while seated on a lotus flower. Lý Thái Tông then married a peasant girl that he had met and she bore him a son. The emperor constructed the temple in gratitude for this in 1049, having been told by a monk named Thiền Tuệ to build the temple, by erecting a pillar in the middle of a lotus pond, similar to the one he saw in the dream. (source: Wikipedia)
One pillar only

I found a cat!

There's permanent staircase leading up to the pagoda, so visitors can pray in front of its altar. We have to climbed up alternately with another visitor because of its limited space. There was a small thing happened that remain in my mind. An Asian tourist, middle-aged man, asked me to take his pic in front of the shrine. Seemed that he couldn't speak English and used kind of "body language" to communicate or ask for some help. After I took his photograph, still using his "body language", he offered a swap to photographed my mom and I together. Well, I was surprised! With his limitation of language, he kept trying to offer help in return. Really appreciated his politeness and good will. He said "gamsahabnida" before left us.. ah, Korean tourist! Here's the pic we got from a kindhearted stranger...
Thank you, Mr. Korean!

Ho Chi Minh Museum
19 Ngọc Hà Street, Ba Đình District, Hà Nội
Tel: +84 4 38463752/57    
Opening hours: 8 am - 4.30 pm daily, 8 - 12 am on Monday & Friday

Wavin' flag

Entering one of the most famous museum in Hanoi, we'll be greeted with huge Ho Chi Minh statue in a room named General Introduction Hall. It's like "a must" for a tourist to have photographs here, yeah.. rite, including us! Anthony reminded us 'bout it, then took this pic… thanks!

This museum dedicated to Uncle Ho and his revolutionary struggle against colonialism for Vietnamese independence. In this museum we could have an overview of his life and leadership through some displays and memorabilia. One display I like the most was Ho Chi Minh's last testament, carved in a black granite wall with white fonts:
"My ultimate wish is that our entire party and people, closely joining their efforts, will build a peaceful, reunified, independent, democratic and prosperous Vietnam, and make a worthy contribution to the world revolution."
Ho Chi Minh's life and thoughts only for his beloved country, Vietnam

A display shows Ho Chi Minh's childhood home

I saw uniqueness in their displays on the third floor. They use kind of modern art (and a bit surrealism, IMO) to symbolize the story of Ho Chi Minh and the land of Vietnam. Some people would say the displays are weird or too abstract, but not in my sight. As an art people, I was more interested with its visual appearance rather than the meaning. I didn't even pay much attention to the description on each display. Just looked at them, snapped some pics… and here they are…

Is it too weird for you?

When we walked out of the museum, Anthony asked if we were hungry. Reflect, I looked at my wristwatch and found it was nearly 12 o'clock.. wow, time flew! Suddenly we started to feel a bit hungry, but still remembered to pose in front of the museum. Yaaa.. another tourist's pose! *grin*
Yes, we are tourist!
Kept my camera on while walking back to the pick up point, I snapped some interesting pics…

Highly selected soldier
Vietnamese Independence Square

Hanoi has becak too, it called cyclo there

Our next destination was definitely a restaurant for lunch. Less than half an hour we arrived at Anh Hoa Restaurant, where the tour company booked our set lunch menu. Its location was not in the city centre and quite far from tourist area. Our detailed experience with this resto can be found in another article (read it here) and now I just wanna give you a sneak peak of our menu. Hope they look mouthwatering enough for y'all! *wink*

My mom and I finished our lunch for about 50 mins only, then met our guide again to continue the journey. Around 1.45 pm we headed to The Museum of Ethnology.

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
Nguyễn Văn Huyên Road, Nghĩa Đô, Cầu Giấy District, Hà Nội
Tel: +84 4 3756 2193    
Opening hours: 8.30 am - 5.30 pm, closed on Monday and Vietnam New Year

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology considered to be the finest modern museum in Vietnam, and listed as "a must visit" tourist attraction in Hanoi. Lucky us, it was not too crowded when we came there. Its parking lots were still empty with only one car, and I saw no tourist bus.. glad to know that! *big grin*

Anthony bought the ticket for us, then he asked me if I want to buy additional ticket as a "camera permit" inside the museum (it was not include in our tour budget from the company). For sure, I won't miss a chance to take pictures there, so I decided to buy it for 40.000 VND. I got a blue circle sticker as a sign that I had the permission to use the camera.

I like this museum so much. Its architecture and interior were designed very well and appropriate as a museum. It looks modern from outside, but more homely inside. They arranged all the stuff properly with a good pathway so visitors can easily see them in the right order. Even if you come without a guide, just follow the right path and you won't feel misguided. Fortunately we were guided by Anthony who can explain more, based on his own experience or knowledge. From his descriptions and story, I became really curious (and interested!) with northern Vietnam territory, where the minority tribes live.

I think this kind of museum is important not only for foreign tourists, but also for Vietnam people themselves. They could learn more about their own culture from all ethnics, especially for the youngsters grown up in big-modem city who usually have lack of knowledge about traditional cultures. Through this museum we could know more about 54 officially recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam, only in a glimpse -of course, but good enough to realize how rich their culture is.

Among all display, this "tree" caught my attention so much, especially the one in main hall. The tree used for traditional ceremonies, and its form can be different for each tribe or territory. Those tree in the main hall has similarity with penjor from Bali-Indonesia, but made from different material.

Sister of Balinese penjor?

Lacquer Workshop
Our guide offered to stopped by at a lacquer workshop before visited the next place. I asked him to make sure we had enough time, and he said we definitely would have enough time bcoz it's only two of us. The Lacquer Workshop located quite far from city centre, dunno the road's name, but that's the only lacquer shop along that road. Ground floor used as shop, and basement for workshop. A "guide" from the shop explained the step-by-step of making a lacquer painting. A sample for each step hung on the wall, made us easily understand the process. The presentation is well prepared, the guide spoke good English, but I guess she would repeat her explanation exactly the same for another tourist, like a cassette player.. hahaha...

There are 3 different types of lacquer painting: using eggshell, acrylic painting, and carved clamshell. We can see the artisans working on each type of lacquer painting -live at this place. Enjoy!

Applying eggshell to create a form, very detailed job

Acrylic painting (left) and carving the clamshell into shape (right)

Artisans on duty and washing process

We did enjoy their presentation on how lacquer crafts are made, appreciated its long-complicated process, but somehow not really interested with the final products. At the end we bought nothing, as Anthony said there's no obligation to buy something if we visit the workshop. I saw this place was a tourist-oriented place, they used the workshop as an attraction to "invite" tourist to come, so they could sell their products afterward.

Temple of Literature
Quốc Tử Giám Street, Đống Đa District, Hà Nội
Opening hours: 8.30 - 11.30 am and 1.30 - 5.30 pm, closed on Monday and national holidays

It was a bit dark when we visited Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu) because the grey cloud hung above Hanoi's sky that day. Couldn't explain any better about this legendary temple, I chose to quote descriptions from online references:
The Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu) is a temple of Confucius in Hanoi, northern Vietnam. The temple hosts the "Imperial Academy" (Quốc Tử Giám), Vietnam's first national university. The temple was built in 1070 at the time of King Lý Nhân Tông. It is one of several temples in Vietnam which are dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars. The temple is located to the south of Thang Long Citadel. The various pavilions, halls, statues and stelae of doctors are places where offering ceremonies, study sessions and the strict exams of the Dai Viet took place. The temple is featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese đồng banknote. (source: Wikipedia)
A tiger relief

The Temple of Literature consists of five courtyards. The temple layout is similar to the temple at Qufu, Shandong (China), Confucius' birthplace. There are three pathways to enter the site, one in the middle is bigger than two others. In the past, the centre pathway was for the monarch only. Currently only the centre pathway is open while the two flanking pathways remain closed with their red doors.

The centre pathway at the main gate

The red door remains closed

The first courtyard extends from the main gate to the Great Middle Gate (Dai Trung)

First courtyard and the great middle gate to the second

The second courtyard contains the Constellation of Literature Pavilion (Khuê Văn Các), built in 1805 and a symbol of present day Hanoi. It's built on four white-washed stone stilts and at the top is a red-coloured pavilion with two circular windows and an elaborate roof. Inside, a bronze bell hangs from the ceiling to be rung on auspicious occasions.

Constellation of Literature Pavilion, missed its top details bcoz it was so dark

In the third courtyard there is the Well of Heavenly Clarity (Thiên Quang Tỉnh).

Well of Heavenly Clarity

On either side of the well stand two great halls which house the treasures of the temple:
Stele of Doctors
In 1484, the King Lê Thánh Tông erected 116 steles of carved blue stone turtles with elaborate motifs to honour talent and encourage study. The turtle (quy) is one of the nation's four holy creatures. The others are dragon (long), unicorn (ly) and phoenix (phuong). The turtle is a symbol of longevity.
The doctors' steles are a valuable historical resource for the study of culture, education and sculpture in Vietnam. 82 stelae remain. They depict the names and birth places of 1307 graduates of 82 triennial royal exams. Between 1442 and 1779, eighty-one exams were held by the Le dynasty and one was held by the Mac dynasty. The ancient Chinese engravings on each stele praise the merits of the monarch and cite the reason for holding royal exams. They also record the mandarins who were tasked with organising the exams. 
(source: Wikipedia)
Stele of doctors

On each side of the ceremonial fourth courtyard stand two halls. Their original purpose was to house altars to the seventy-two most honoured disciples of Confucius and Chu Van An (a rector of the Imperial Academy). Nowadays, one of the hall used as souvenir and snack/drink shops.
In the centre of the fourth courtyard is the House of Ceremonies (Bai Duong). The next building is the Dai Thanh Sanctuary, where Confucius and his four closest disciples Yanhui, Zengshen, Zisi and Mencius are worshipped. The sanctuary also hosts altars to ten honoured philosophers. A small museum displays ink wells, pens, books and personal artefacts belonging to some of the students that studied at the temple.

Altar to Confucius

The fifth courtyard is the Thai Hoc. Several buildings were constructed including the front building, the two storeys rear building, the left and right buildings, a bell house and a drum house. Unfortunately we didn't reach this last courtyard, dunno why our tour guide didn't take us there. Lack of time, it might be. I just knew about this courtyard from online source about this temple when got back home.

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
57b Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi

We were scheduled to watch the show at 5 pm, but our guide said we gonna be late bcoz of the traffic jam. Oh no.. why shud we trapped again in the same condition like Jakarta? Indeed, we saw the roads were soo crowded that afternoon, mostly with motorcycles. We did late as estimated, the show already begun, and the theatre was soo damn full. 

iPhone's shot: It costs VND 100k per pax

Water Puppet is a unique performance from Vietnam as I read in online references long time before. Its main stage is a pond where the colourful wooden puppets rose from the water and moved so lively. Musicians and narrator have separated-smaller stage on the left side of the pond. It was interesting to see how the puppets were operated by the puppeteers behind the blinds.
iPhone's shot: Stage and the musicians

All songs and narration are in Vietnamese, but somehow I could understand the meaning in each sequence. Even though I could enjoy the show, this pretty cool and dark theatre made me sleepy inside there. Boring? A bit, maybe.. but I think tiredness played the biggest role. Hoaahmmm...

The puppeteers
After the show we walked in a short distance toward the pick-up place while looking around at the busy afternoon. Thang Long Theatre located at French Corner area, which looks a bit modern than Old Quarter. Here we can found chained coffee shop or some cafes with lots of people hangout there (mostly the youngsters and tourists), just like in a modern city. Of course, many shops scattered everywhere especially souvenir shops around the theatre.

Last attraction for today was finished, now it's time for dinner. Anthony took us to a hotel somewhere else, I was totally 'blind' with its street name. I felt disappointed deep inside, but can do nothing. We didn't blame our guide, it was the tour company who decided that place. I didn't take even a single photo of our menu

Around 7 pm we arrived at Aranya Hotel, our last destination of the day. We switched to this hotel which included in our Halong Bay package from Go Asia Travel (read the itinerary here). Check-in process ran smoothly 'till the hotel officer brought us to our room. Guess what? We found a double bed with an extra bed inside! It was totally a mistake, and we insisted to ask for a twin shared room. Fortunately Aranya Hotel was very understanding and agreed to provide our request in the same room. They just asked us to wait while they set up the room.

We sat at lobby hotel, then the receptionist girl took initiative to chat with us. She gave us a printed map and marked some interesting places near the hotel. She was so helpful when I asked her to contact Anthony to inform about pick up place the next 3 days. I gave her the phone number as listed in my service voucher, but she said it was a wrong number. There was a missing or incomplete number. Gosh, I felt a bit anxious 'till my mom threw an idea to contact Quoc Hoa Hotel and left a message for Anthony at their receptionist. 

Talking about the personnel that night, the receptionist girl is an attractive young girl with sweet and sincere smile. She spoke good English as well. The hotel officer, a handsome young man, has the same good manner. He spoke English even better, no wonder, 'coz he also serves at the tour information desk. Above all, both of them are willing to help and serve their customers with heart. Really appreciate that!

I like our Deluxe Room in this hotel. It was quite spacious room with sitting area and large writing desk. The room has a modern taste yet homey and warm with its wooden floor and furnitures. Also like the red rose petals on the bed.. so romantic.. hahaha…

See you tomorrow!

Read the next day: Amazing Vietnam Day 3: Halong Bay, A Dream Come True

Back to previous day: Amazing Vietnam Day 1: The Beginning


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