During the night it rained quite heavily. Therefore it was extremely humid after the sun came out…and most of the day I was sweating like a pig. Something you should not do in Vietnam as the locals consider this uncultivated and give you the feeling that they are staring at you without looking at you…
The first pearls of sweat appeared on my forehead already at breakfast. I had “Pho”, the traditional Vietnamese rice-noodle soup with beef. While this soup is rather mild as most of the Vietnamese don’t like it hot, you also get a little plate with chillies and tiny limes at the side for the freaks. And, of course, I can’t resist the chillies…and had to behave like a “Tai” (which in Vietnam does not mean you are from Thailand, but depicts ethnic minorities with foreign origin).
What makes me feel much at home here is that in many places you also get a bowl/cup with garlic floating in vinegar on the table. Just like a for a Bulgarian shkembe chorba! Wonderful!
Anyway, I see quite a few parallels between Vietnam and Bulgaria. One is the condition of the pavements in the capital. Much like Sofia. You always walk with your head modestly bent down – to watch your steps.
Each street in the old part of Hanoi is traditionally occupied by one profession. My street seems to be the street of butchers as nearly every little shop is selling meat in the morning.
Then I went sightseeing to Van Mieu, the first university in Vietnam (1076), also called “Temple if Literature”. Here is the “heart” of it, the temple of Konfucius, where students to this very day burn incense sticks to improve their results 🙂
As it appears, exams seem to have been much tougher in the good old days. Their records have been chiselled in stone slabs on display in the yards. The exams lasted 35 days and in 1733 for example only 8 out of 3000 candidates passed them. Maybe we should think about such structures in our modern universities 😉
Afterwards it was a visit to the “Ethnological Museum”, by far the most popular one in Hanoi. To spare you too many details let me tell you that the only thing I found there bigger and older than me was this tree:
Lunch was at the Hoa Sua restaurant next to the museum where the waiters and cooks are trainees from orphanages and underprivileged families.This “good cause dining” made it easier for me to sacrifice myself 🙂
As I had learned already in my first year of Latin at school: “plenus venter non studet libenter” I decided that the cultural program for the day was concluded.
A massage session at the “Magic Spa” seemed the better way to go. Here I am waiting to be picked up by my masseur.
To my surprise the Vietnamese massages are not like the Thai. It was pretty much the same as my good old masseuse at Pirin Lodge practises! Just as good. The little lady had enormously strong hands and fingers and I still feel perfectly well, physically.
After a break at the hotel it was out and about again.First to a street cafe in the centre…
While I was having a Ha Noi beer there I started wondering where to have dinner. Across the street this guerilla-cooking chef caught my eye. She was frying fish on the street between motorbikes…as I was not sure if she cooked it for herself or family I decided to stroll on and ended up having a simple eel soup at a street stall.
A long walk along the West Lake, the biggest in Hanoi, watching people fishing with nets and loads of young people camping and eating and drinking, concluded the day.
I am now finishing my bottle of Havana Club in peace with the world and have decided to start first planning steps tomorrow for travelling around the North of Vietnam next week. If nothing else comes in between. So far I am not in a hurry to leave…