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Sunday by the lake....in Hanoi

VIETNAM | Sunday, 18 April 2010 | Views [320]

Sunday morning by Hoan Kiem lake

Sunday morning by Hoan Kiem lake

I spent my Sunday morning in Hanoi visiting Hoan Kiem Lake for walking, practicing my T’ai Chi form and just observing the locals in their morning activities. I saw a lot of Chi Gong, a little bit of jogging and one man pooping in the bushes. The temperature was still cool and there was a fog hanging over the lake. There is a small, medieval looking tower, called Turtle Tower, sitting in the middle of the lake. With the presence of the fog, it looked like a movie set for a fantasy epic. After a lap and a half, I did my Yang form, took a few more photos and the power walked back to the City Gate. Because I had committed the sin of not purchasing my train tickets for their ridiculously overpriced amount, I was told that the only way they would allow me to leave my bag for the afternoon was if I shelled out another $2. I really didn’t want to have to lug my pack around for 10 hours, so I handed over the equivalent in VND. At least she gave me a decent exchange rate. Someone once told me that the French are very hospitable and friendly to tourists visiting their country as long as they are spending an acceptable amount of money. I think that I am hitting that wall here in Vietnam. It’s not that the U.S. is a former enemy that left giant bomb craters in their landscape. It’s that, I am the budget traveler and the Vietnamese, like their colonizers, want tourists to spend lavishly. I bet I would get a lot better treatment in this country if I had a stack of cash to distribute, but sadly, I don’t.

As noisy as the city streets are in Hanoi, I was actually able to find several places to quietly read or work on my computer. I stayed in one café for about two hours doing some writing. When I ordered my coffee, she gave me a menu with no prices on it and she didn’t understand when I asked “how much?“ I am so glad that I only ordered one coffee, because she gave the special, inflated, “non-Vietnamese” rate. As I was leaving an English-speaking Asian couple came in and asked to see a menu. They were also concerned over the lack of prices, and I told them right in front of her about the Vietnamese price and the non-Vietnamese price. They put the menu down and walked out. I looked at the coffee shop owner and smiled.

In my afternoon wanderings I stumbled across St. Josephs Cathedral and took another walk around the lake. This time it was much more crowded. The Hanoians were out enjoying their Sunday afternoon with a walk and an ice cream. There were young couples everywhere cuddling on the park benches that circled the lake. I had a difficult time finding an unoccupied bench and when I saw one, I practically knocked down two older women and a young boy to get to it. A young couple had also spotted the bench, but I got there first. I could see that they were disappointed and I felt a little guilty…. For about 10 seconds. Someone approached me and asked if I spoke English. I shook my head. I guess I’m the liar now.

* * * * * * *

I wish that I had checked earlier about the cheaper tickets for train travel. I like the little cabins that they give you. They’re cozy, done in wood paneling and even have electrical outlets. The bunk cushions are not very soft, but at least you have some room to stretch out. It‘s four passengers to a cabin, and I had to share it with two strangers. But they had to share it with an American woman who carries around way too much stuff. So I guess it’s a wash. I’m glad that I got to try it at least once before I left. I did see some passenger accommodations that were even more plush than my own. I wonder how much a berth costs on the cushy car.

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