Friday, 13 June 2008

Further exploration in & around Hanoi

On Wednesday I cycled from the apartment north-west, along the southern bank of the Red River. As soon as I left Hanoi

Yesterday was Carolyne's birthday. We both started the day with a run around Truc Bach Lake: it was Carolyne's first run for many weeks, so ran only one lap that she enjoyed. After our usual early coffee at Pinocchio's, overlooking Truc Bach Lake, we continued walking westwards, along the southern shore of West Lake. It was a beautiful, sunny day but very hot. The shore-line was quiet apart from fisherman with their rods. Some were using insects as bait while others were attempting to jag fish. Some were on make-shift jetties, others waded out to tiny platforms.

When we left the lake we passed along a sring of narrow alleyways about 3 metres wide, lined with small shops and residences. We emerged from the alleyways though an old gate in the former town wall onto a city street.

After a couple of stops for bottled water we arrived at the much heralded Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. Its purpose is to showcase the extraordinary ethnic and cultural diversity of Vietnam. It lived up to its reputation, with excellent indoor exhibits of clothes, tools, art and so on, with a special exhibition of photos and the cultural collection of a French anthropologit who lived with a remote tribe 60 years ago. After a break for lunch at the pleasant museum restaurant, we toured the outdoor exhibits of houses and other domestic structures from several ethnic groups.

When I cycled through northern Vietnam 3 years ago I was lucky enough to see many of the small, remote ethnic groups celebrated in the museum. Our visit yesterday inspired us to visit further of these groups.

We finished the day with dinner at Koto, at a pleasant restaurant 30 minutes walk south of the our apartment. Koto is a not-for-profit establishment that provides training in cooking and hospitality for under-priveleged youths. The service was terrific though the menu appeared directed at western tastes.

This morning we visited Quan Thanh Temple, after which our street is named. It is a 10 minute walk along the street from the apartment and shaded by huge trees. It was built in 1030, just a few years after Hanoi was established in 1010. Though not large, it is very beautiful, with superb carvings and inlays of mother of pearl. There's a large brass statue and bell that date from 1677.


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