Sunday, 12 June 2005

Hanoi Day 2, Sunday 12 June

Awoke before 5am with the pre dawn light. Tried to get back to sleep as my cold is still making me feel head-achy and tired. Eventually got up, changed into shorts and light top, and trotted the 2-3 minutes to Hoan Kiem Lake. Quickly found that the high temperature, very high humidity and lack of any breeze made the conditions stifling and not at all conducive to heavy exercise.

There were thousands of people at the lake, most walking, some jogging, and many women in groups doing aerobic exercises to music. At one spot men were doing exercises on outdoor equipment: chin-ups, back bends and so on. The small lake must be about 1.5km around. I trotted around it three times, keeping to the road as the paths on the lake shore were crowded. The vehicular traffic was light, and it kept clear of people exercising. Returned to the hotel within 30 minutes.

Showered and to breakfast about 7am. Had the same as yesterday. Took my tea to the computer to catch up on mail. Carolyne called.

Another pleasant though unexciting day, spent mainly exploring the streets, markets and food of the city. As I had brought from home the wrong charger for the mobile, had to buy a new one. It took quite a few shops but eventually found a little place that had Nokia chargers for 90,000D.

Walked to a large indoor market, spread over 3 floors of a concrete building. There were thousands of stalls, with a huge variety of goods, but mainly clothing, cloths, toys and household items. Many stall holders, most of them young women, were sleeping on their goods in tiny spaces. Bought a small brolly for 25,000D and a pair of shorts for 40,000D. The latter is interesting: it appears to be entirely hand made, with shallow pockets and an elastic waist. Remember the exchange rate is roughly 12,000D for AUD$1.

The best thing about the market was a narrow lane nearby where there were 5-6 tiny restaurants that appear to provide the market with food. Saw young women carrying trays of hot food up the stairs and distributing it. As it was 11:30am and the food looked good, decided to try a place with seating in a room off the lane-way. A middle-aged woman sat with all the food around her, including a soup with tomatoes. With her hands she filled each bowl with noodles, a spinach, chopped spring onion, fungus, other vegies and poured the soup over the top. That was the only dish being served. I ate a bowl for 7,000D: it was quite spicy and superb. Had green salad on the side and bowl of what tasted like green olives in a clear broth, shared with other diners, as a condiment. The only problem is that the heat of the cooking in the small room, plus the spicy food made perspiration cascade down my whole body.

Returned to my room about 1pm for a shower and snooze. Felt much better afterwards.
At about 3pm took my bike along the street and got a bloke to pump the tyres with a foot pump. Gave him 4,000D and he was happy. Then took the plunge and joined the throng of scooters to follow a route advised in the Lonely Planet Cycling Guide. I enjoyed it enormously.

The scooters ride more slowly than I had expected - about 25-30kph, so was able to keep up easily. But had to be aware of everything around me and concentrate. The most difficult problem occurred when scooters coming towards me veered in front, either to turn a corner or just to stop on the side of the street. Had to weave my way through. It's even harder when cars do the same thing! The air movement made the exercise more pleasant than jogging. I saw Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, the botanic gardens, embassies, beautiful colonial buildings used for government purposes and two lakes.

Spent the evening as had yesterday, with beers sitting in the nearby intersection, and eating at the same outdoor restaurant, with again terrific food.


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