The stuff of legend becomes reality.
24.11.2009 25 °C
We landed in Hanoi, Vietnam last night and after dumping our bags at the guesthouse went out to get dinner and explore the city. First impressions of Hanoi were that it is noisy, smelly, dirty and full of absolutely mental drivers – our impressions have not changed at all although we have actually really enjoyed our day today despite all that!
We had a walk around the Hoan Kiem Lake and visited the Ngoc Son temple that is on an island on the lake which has the embalmed remains of a giant tortoise that lived in the lake but died in 1969. There is a tale about an emperor with a magical sword that he used to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam, a golden turtle grabbed the sword and disappeared into the depths of the lake forever. In 2004 one of them was seen on the island and so as a result the lake was drained of some of its polluted water and sludge and lots of water was brought from a bore hole to re-fill the lake with clean water. After doing a bit of research today it seems these are very rare creatures, and that only a handful exist, 2 in a Chinese zoo and one in the lake still. It is supposed to be REALLY, REALLY lucky to see the turtle as they are so rare and it is so very rarely seen at the lake. As we wandered round today we saw a crowd of people so headed over and found a gap only to see the turtle surfacing for a breathe of air! We stood there a while and it came up again! The locals were all videoing it and were very excited, so I guess we are very lucky tourists! We are now kicking ourselves that we didn’t take photos as one man has made over 100 MILLION dong selling his photos as the creature is hardly ever seen!
After that bit of excitement we went to book a 2-day tour to Halong Bay which is supposed to be stunning – we leave on Thursday morning.
Then we went to the water puppet theatre. This was a quirky, bizarre experience! Basically it was an hour of watching puppets on water dance and ‘act’ to Vietnamese music – sounds weird and dull but it was actually strangely entertaining and quite funny! After the theatre we headed to City View Café 5 floors up overlooking the lake and a very busy part of the Old Quarter for a drink. We watched the rush hour traffic with awe as a million motorbikes, the odd car, bus, balloon seller and tourist too, miraculously made it across from every direction at the same time without a single incident! It has to be seen to be believed!
We finished our evening in a lovely restaurant, Avalon, again looking over the lake. The food was lovely, the service was excellent and we even had street entertainment with a big argument between a couple which resulted in her zooming off in a taxi and him almost getting into a fist fight with another man and about 20 locals all trying to get involved! Who knows what tomorrow will bring!