16.05.2012 - 16.05.2012
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Well here we are in the thick of it all. We arrived after a 3 1/2 hour flight with darling Miss B wound up like a spinning top. You see she had a wee friend in the row in front. At little 3 yr old indian girl coincidentally also called Bella and what we initially thought was great turned into a nightmare as they excitedly chatted and giggled and got louder and louder. This also didn't help when we were going through the visa on arrival ordeal with Bella shuffling her bum and singing "I'm sexy and I know it" with pouty lips. Its fair to say it is a rather formal process to be going thru with all the papers we had to fill out and areas to queue. The system actually works quiet well, so $125 US lighter we made it.
Our accommodation at the May De Ville backpackers is more like a small hotel despite the name. Very clean and tidy and we are getting two rooms for the same price we paid in Singapore for breakfast. We are in the the old quarter of Hanoi which is great fun and although it's 32 degrees with the humity is feels a lot worse.
Forgot to mention this unlocked door out of our shower only a shear 8 storey drop
Well the contrast to Singapore was huge. Hanoi is big, crowded, dirty, smelly, loud and teaming with motorcycles - have I sold it to you yet? Crossing the road is like a suicide mission - you just walk out there amongst it all with confidence and whatever you do don't stop. Road rules don't seem to exist its just a free for all with lots of tooting. The saving grace being most of the don't drive that fast so remarkably there doesn't seem to be many collisions. Families of four ride one motorbike with babies as young as 1 riding too. The majority of kids don't have helmets on but most of the Mums and Dads do. I had to laugh today seeing a toddler wearing sunglasses but still no helmet - priorities?? It has taken a few days but we are now enjoying Hanoi. Initially we felt very nervous taking the kids out walking with all the traffic but our confidence has grown. The frustrating thing is that everyone parks their motorbikes on the footpath so you have to walk on the road.
Look closely - family of 4 on board
A drink over looking the traffic on the first day
So our first few days were spent getting our bearings in this big city. This has been a little challenging at times. One time in particular we were heading back to our hostel and didn't realise the neon sign at the beginning of the alleyway was not working. We walked past it 3 times with Bellie absolutely nutting off at us that that was the alleyway and sure enought she was dead right. I am amazed at how quickly the kids adjust. I am positive that at there age I would have been completely overwhelmed. They just seem to get on with it. Bellie usually trotts along holding your hand humming some tune. She is a real magnet to the locals they all want to talk to this cute little white kid and touch her face. She is also the one that has talked the most about going home. We have realized not to say we are gong "back home now" when we are out. Rather referring to going back to the hostel or hotel having seen her wee face light up every time we used the word home. For the first few days she also spent a lot of time drawing pictures of her friends Evie, Greer, Arlia and baby James - bless. Just tonight we were having dinner and when we said we were leaving she asked "are we going to kindy now" - that kid is hard to work out sometimes.
No underground wires here!!
A shop displaying their beautiful silk lanterns
Eating has been fun with our kids starving themselves only for one meal and then realising by the next one that they better eat what was on offer. Holly got all excited and ordered Pumpkin soup one night - funny in this heat. And if I confess Matt and I took them back to the same restaurant tonight where we all had soup and garlic bread on the account of Matt and I having slightly dodgy guts. One night we sat on the tiny little stools of the street vendors and had deep fried crispy pork (was yum tasted like Kentucky fried coating) and chips that had sugar sprinkled on them - weird. Air conditioning has become one of the essentials we look for when picking somewhere to eat as this heat sure does suck the life out of the kids.
Our "street" meal
We had laundry done for $1.50 US per kg which was refreshing after the price in Singapore being $8.50 for one t-shirt (So I ended up handwashing in the bath). Only thing was we ended up with someone's else's bra - interesting returning that to reception. Tonight I had to laugh reading through the laundry charges in our current Hotel. There are separate prices for "Felt clothes" and "Wooden clothes" I assume the later is meant to be woollen. Funny what a difference a letter can make. there is no better feeling than having a pack full of clean clothes.
We are trying hard to learn a few Vietnamese words and as per usual the kids are poles ahead of us. Their memories and pronounciation are far superior to ours. We enjoyed the Water Puppet Show which was very traditional music as costume and very clever. The only downside being this tiny theatre where my knees wouldn't even fit in behind the chair in front of me. we also had a ride across town in a cyclo - kind of a pedal powered tuk tuk. I did feel a tad sorry for my guy who had me and two kids. While Matt and Toby's guy raced ahead even running a red light. All that for just $3.50 per driver.
The Water Puppet Theatre
As well as just wandering the streets we have managed to see a few spots around the town. There is the Hoam Kiem Lake a few minutes walk from our accommodation which has the Ngoc Son Temple on it. You get to it over a rather ornate bridge. Bella's highlight was been given a packet of biscuits by a woman after getting plenty of kisses.
My big purchase - 5 fans and yes Matt I did pay too much for them and are crap at haggling
We also got a taxi out to see Ho Chi Minhs Mausoleum. It's an enormous concrete edifice with all the tradition of past communist leaders like Stalin and Lenin. We queued up with thousands of Vietnamese and entered the room which contains his body in a glass case. Guards stand quietly on each corner and you are ushered through at a brisk pace. The kids thankfully didn't mutter a word inside but once we got out they were full of questions. Mainly why was there a dead guy lying in a box! the reverence for Ho Chi Minh is pretty similar to Turkey with Kemal Attaturk so we made the connection there for the kids. On the way back we went to St Joseph's cathedral.