After yesterdays stroll through a crowded old quarter, we had the opposite this morning. Leaving our central hotel quite early at 8.30 AM we walked through sleepy streets and closed shops in Hanoi center. We were headed to the temple of literature again, as Esther wanted to see it this time without that many tourists and Chris was a good sport. Of course by the time we walked there a number of local tourists had arrived and the place wasn’t as empty as we had hoped.
Armed with a packet of incense sticks and matches, we visited the ancient school and made our new years and good will wishes while leaving the incense to burn slowly. Apparently Confucius was already teaching at this school. He is so revered everywhere for his state building and moral compass but what many people don’t know is that he had very clear opinions on what a man’s or a women’s role should be.
Men are to be taught literature, math and writing women are supposed to be beautiful, gentle and well behaved. His attitude would not have been working in todays world. But he did get credited by defining many of the do’s and dont’s that make up a functioning society.
After the temple we stopped by the ancient citadel in the middle of town. It is still being excavated in many places, dated back to the 11th century, then converted into a military training ground during the Vietnam war before being turned into a large scale open air museum today. The sheer size of the citadel, which had originally three rings of protection, is amazing.
There was also an exhibition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of (North)Vietnams victory over the US, which Chris found very interesting. After all, the Vietnamese successfully stood up against the USA, whose military power was already overwhelming at the time. They were specially proud of shooting down the fearsome B52 bombers.
It was time to head back to the hotel, as our flight to Đồng Hới was leaving mid afternoon.
We allowed ourselves one last delicious freshly prepared smoothie, sitting on mini chairs on a street corner opposite our hotel watching the traffic go by.
By now it was lunchtime and traffic had resumed to it’s normal crazy level. Honking horns are omnipresent. Hundreds of thousands of scooters (an estimated 450 000 scooters in a city of 8 million) descent upon the city each day. They are everywhere. They jump the queue at every red light, forming a moving bee hive when the light turns green. One way streets do not apply to them, even though they officially do. Helmets seem to be optional here (even though officially they are compulsory), masks are optional (even though everyone wears one while driving).
Also optional are the sizes and dimensions of loads that can be transported on them. We saw anywhere from two meter wide loads full of sugarcane to three meter long scooter trailers carrying live animals.
Got three grown live pigs to transport – no problem. Stick each one into a long bamboo basket, strap one on the left, one of the right side of your scooter and one across the back … Got chickens to transport? no problem – strap the dead ones to the front and keep the lives ones in a cage in the back.
Got three dogs to transport on a scooter? no problem – put them in the open foot room of your scooter and hope none falls out. Get four family members across town? No problem – take one child in the front standing before you, let daddy drive , squeeze second smaller child in between Mum and Dad and squeeze Mom on the very back hoping she does not fall off during the journey. Maybe Dad wears a helmet … no need to bother for the others…
It’s amazing what one scooter can take… but cars are simply way more expensive here and a lot slower. And rickshaws aren’t really an alternative we found. You can imagine the air quality all that traffic produces and we feel sorry for the poor people that can’t afford a scooter and have to use a bike each day. We know now why so many scooter drivers are wearing masks while driving. The air pollution is pretty bad.
One thing we haven’t gotten around to yet is to take a GRAB taxi. A scooter taxi of course. Green GRAB scooter drivers are everywhere. They carry a spare helmet and you can book them for anything by app. (Uber has no chance here…). Personal transport, food delivery, running errands – you will find a GRAB driver that is close by and does what you need done.
That’s a wrap for Day 12 as the rest is travel to Dong Hoi and settle into our very nice lake side hotel.