Day two started with a very sleepy Sonya and a breakfast I couldn’t identify (which later turned out to be a dragon fruit). At 8am we were dutifully assembled in the hotel lobby and spent the morning being herded around the city. We first visited Old Hanoi, where each street is dedicated to selling a particular item. We saw ‘kitchen item’ street (actual kitchens!), ‘bamboo scaffolding’ street and ‘weird lacquered puppet’ street. Then we saw the crazy train tracks on the street which I’d already seen on t’internet, but it was still pretty odd to see it in real life.
After Old Hanoi, we then mooched on down to the French quarter. It’s much nicer in a way, with wider, tree-lined streets and colonial architecture. There we saw Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum (from the outside only) and the Temple of Literature. Our guide told us all about Ho Chi Minh (the abridged version) and the Confucian education system introduced by the Chinese. Interestingly, he said Vietnam used to use Chinese characters to write their words, but Ho Chi Minh switched the written language to the Latin alphabet in the 50s.
We then stopped for lunch, where I had my first bowl of the Vietnamese national dish, pho (pronounced fuh). It’s basically a soupy broth with noodles, spring onions and slices of beef. It was pretty nice! We saw lots of people sat on little plastic stools on the street, eating it for breakfast.
After some more mooching around, we went to see the water puppets show. There was live music, and the puppets were very colourful with lots of smoke and fire. It was a bit hard to follow (need to work on my Vietnamese) but it was fun and interesting to watch. We then grabbed some dinner in a cafe overlooking the lake. I had some sort of spicey-ish beefy rice dish with mango juice (yum!). Now we’re sat waiting for our guide to arrive to take us to the overnight train to Sa Pa. I’m really really looking forward to it. I know that’s a bit weird, especially seeing as it’s just like motorail (Oh no! Not motorail!), but I’m intrigued to see the Vietnamese train system in action and see the sights on our way up into the mountains. But most of all, I just want to sleep!