People who know me know I have very little interest in high fashion. I sometimes crave nicer things but I don’t usually see the cost benefit for spending a ton of money on an item I can get more affordably without a label. For this reason I am surprised I am so happy to come upon a Hermès exhibit outside the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam this past October. (October 25)
The actual exhibit is called In Motion and features Hermès designed items to travel and motion. This exhibit is right up my alley with bikes, roller skates, picnic gear, and hidden flasks. It is very enjoyable to see all fancy things related to travel.
Hermès In Motion is a high fashion event that is just my style. It is a nice little air conditioned exhibit that was definitely worth the hour or so.
I am back in Hanoi. I have moved hotels to experience a different part of town and to save some money. The streets are smaller here. The hotel is satisfactory but my only complaint is the weird placement of the bathroom inside an existing room box. It makes me think the bathroom was added later. There is some mildew smell but that is typical in budget hotels in southeast Asia. Usually those smells bother me but I find myself more likely to just go with the flow here. When did I become so easy going, lol?
My room has some snacks to purchase. The universe must hate me because look what I am offered – squid chips!
More train street
I once again walk by train street. I see they are getting more lax with their security since people are actually walking onto the tracks to get pictures. I wonder if in time they will re-open the coffee shops and cafes?
Temple Of Literature
I am heading to the temple of literature. The temple of literature was built in the 11th century as a university dedicated to Confucius. One of the highlights are the Bia Da (Stone Stelae) standing stone slabs used to commemorate graduates.
I walk back to the main building (Đại Thành Sanctuary). I am not in fully modest attire so I am given a robe to wear for modesty. It is definitely not in an american size. It barely fits me. It is hot out and this extra covering makes me sweat more but it is what I have to do to sight-see around here.
In that same complex I visit a very interesting Hermès exhibit and for that I’ll create a separate post.
After a long day of sightseeing I am craving western comforts. A couple on my junk boat cruise recommends 4P pizza. It is a Vietnam pizza chain. I am very satisfied with my pizza, mozzarella salad and wine. Since my visit is close to Halloween all of the staff is dressed like witches. It is a fun little escape with some comfort food for the night.
I grow fonder of Hanoi the more time I spend here.
As part of my junk boat cruise package they offer an optional Vietnamese home-stay experience. Because my travel taste tends to favor local experience I decide to take advantage of the package. After I am picked up from my cruise I am taken to the Yen Duc village to experience Vietnamese life for a short while.
Many cruise vans stop by the village I am visiting for a water puppet show only. I ride with the group to the village but I am watching the puppet show the next day before I get picked up to return to Hanoi.
Instead I am taken to my room by electric cart. Usually there are more guests but tonight I am the only one. It is awkward because all the attention is on me but also I can cater the experience to exactly what I want.
My host takes me to my huge room. I relax there a bit after some welcome tea.
I am visiting during rainy season so we wait for the showers to end before going out for a bike ride around the village. I don’t bring my phone or camera on the ride for fear of rain so I get no pictures of that experience.
First stop is a local lady who has a 190 year old house. She lives mostly alone due to losing her husband years ago and her kids live out of town. She tells me of the family reunions that happen every ten years. She also explains the alters and offerings and how they worship a dead patriarch of many generations ago. She shows me her amazing family tree that now numbers more than 200 from a single ancestor , even going back when multiple wives were common. We talk about her garden and her house. Some of the plants in her garden I have grown in Florida in the past (my home). She is very nice.
Next I learn how to produce rice. After harvesting rice has 2 layers to remove (brown rice just has one, the hull, removed). White rice is the same grain but has the hull, bran layer, and cereal germ removed.
A circular machine is used remove the outer layer shell, or hull.
Then rice is put into baskets to shake to remove the shell. It is an art. You shake and twirl to separate and use a jerk motion to knock the shell pieces out of the basket.
Then remove the second layer by bashing using a large mallet thing. It is a workout.
Finally I shake again to remove the rest of the bran and germ. It is an art. It is also hard work. I didn’t realize how much went into producing rice (and I didn’t even get to see it harvested). Rice is sold so cheaply all over the world and it takes so much manual labor to produce it.
After learning about rice we take bike ride to go fishing. In the village they do farm fishing in ponds. They grow the fish in ponds and use a basket method to catch the fish when it is time to cook it. I get a demonstration by the local fisherman. He plunges a wicker basket into the water in different areas in order to try to entrap a fish. This motion is done quickly all over the pond. Now it is my turn I walk into the muddy pond with water pants. I try and try and try but I couldn’t catch a fish of my own with the basket. I am assisted with catching one but I do have to stick my hand in and grab it put it in the basket. I hope this is something I would be able to master in time because right now my survival skills are lacking.
After fishing we ride back, there is finally great weather and I have great views of the rice fields.
When we return I get to roll my own dessert. Sugar cube, mung beans, dough and sesame. I can’t wait to try it later. I make a note to research all the cooking of mung beans. I forgot that I used to like them.
I go back to my room and cleanup but notice a huge spider chilling on my shower curtain. I am from Florida and we have a fair share of spiders but I am still scared of it. When I arrive at the dinner table later I tell my host about my fear of the spider. A staff member (who is small and petite) happily goes into my room and removes the huge spider with her hands. I am in awe. It is probably no big deal to her but I am impressed.
Soon I am served dinner like a queen (sorry forgot photos). One of the highlights is the morning glory at that like sautéed spinach.
I mean to go for a bike ride on my own in the morning but decide to relax instead. I always try to take my downtime when I can because things can always feel so fast-paced when traveling.
In no time at all it is lunchtime. Squid is on the menu but I am able to “swallow them down”. Again it is not that I don’t like squid, I actually do, I just don’t want to eat it all the time. I wish I had written down everything else I consumed, because it is all cooked well.
Soon it is time for me to watch the water puppet show. While I wait for the puppet show I take one last walk around the area.
Water Puppet Show
The puppet show starts with some singers. They sing a lovely song while they float around.
Soon the performance begins. The puppeters are behind the screen and are very skilled at acting out scenes with the puppets. A band plays music beside the stage.
After the show ends I head back to Hanoi for a second visit. More on that later.
Today is the second day of the junk boat cruise on Bai Tu Long bay in Vietnam (See Junk Boat Day 1).
This morning we start with a visit to a floating fishing village. Vietnam used to have much more of these villages of complete families who live on the water. Now many are paid by the government to give up their fishing life and move to land. Kids of the existing communities are forced to go to schools. It is said it is combat pollution but probably also so they can cater to more tourism on the waters.
The village we visited is small but we got a little idea on how the life is lived on the water.
After a float by the village we are taken to a beautiful arch.
Next we head to a pearl farm. It is cool to hear how pearls are made (Always thought they were all randomly “found” at sea) but really this is an opportunity for visitors to buy some jewelry. It is nice to look at but pearl jewelry isn’t my thing.
After our visit to the oyster farm we head to an island to visit a cave and have a beach BBQ.
We climb a bunch of stairs to access the cave.
We find a small cave but it is an interesting way to spend a couple minutes.
After exploring we head back down for some beach time and lunch.
Tables are setup under umbrellas on a small slither of beach. The tide seems to be high so we have to walk into the water a bit to get to the tables. I order a beer or two. The food comes out family style in the form of huge plates of meat that just don’t stop (think churrascaria). It is good but protein is filling and we are wasting so much food. We have to ask them to stop. I wish I would have brought a bigger stomach for the day. (Sorry no food pics).
While we are eating it starts raining. Luckily we are covered. The rain ends just in time for us to grab our things and head back to the tender to return to the ship.
The afternoon has another kayaking adventure that I pass due to my shoulders still being sore.
Dinner is so so. I like the chicken dish served but we also have more squid and prawn (If I eat one more prawn I will throw up all over this boat). What really turns me off at dinnertime is the children on the cruise. I am used to going on cruises with kids and can excuse a certain amount of squirmy behavior but our cruise is small and intimate in nature so any misbehavior is amplified. Most kids were well behaved but for some reason the two nights I end up next to the unhappy or not well behaved kids. I try really hard to be tolerant.
Perhaps I would only do this cruise again if I had a companion to distract me or on an adults only cruise.
Other than the sore shoulders and the annoying kids the cruise is overall very nice.
I skip the squid fishing once more and call it an early night. I go to a village for a homestay tomorrow.