16th.February, Hanoi – Sightseeing & the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Hanoi is a big city with 4mio people and about the same number of mopeds, so the traffic is like Naples or Rom but worse. Still we did not see any accidents. For our visit it was cooler than in Laos only 27degC but unfortunately very misty. This did not really matter in the city but would not be good the next day at Ha Long Bay. We made the round of the various temples including those we should have seen the previous day. They are quite different from the ones in Laos, being a formal arrangement of smallish buildings in a park like setting. There were lots of people I think partly because it was Saturday. The Temple of Literature is a temple of Confucius which hosts the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first national university. The temple was built in 1070 at the time of Emperor Ly Thanh Tong. It is one of several temples in Vietnam which are dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars. The Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi, is located on a small island near the south-eastern shore of Hanoi’s West Lake.
We viewed the Ho Chi Minh memorial from a safe distance, avoiding the queue of hundreds of Chinese wanting to see the wax figure of Uncle Ho inside. Ho Chi Minh is supposed to be wax but some say he is only plaster and an arm is broken! The outside is bad enough being like a massive concrete bunker with a slight touch of the Acropolis.
Hanoi Old Quarter is a tourist attraction. Interesting was an old railway right through the city centre built of course by the French. Today the houses on either side reach almost to the rails but trains still run! By chance a train passed just as we arrived but afterwards we could settle down for a coffee with our feet on the rails! The next train was not due for hours.
One of the two German men from Berlin who are with me asked if my grandson (aged 12) would have liked the water puppet theatre to which I said probably not – not cool enough. It was well done though. The operators stand almost up to their waists in water behind a screen. Control rods in the water go under the screen to the puppets which are quite large. All is accompanied by live music.