Sunday, January 28, 2018

Water Puppets, Egg Coffee and the Hanoi Hilton

It was dull and cool (high of 13 degrees) with a little drizzle today.

Our first stop on our walk was the lake area. On our way to St. Joseph’s Cathedral I discovered an amazing artisan ceramics shop which was filled with beautiful blue and white pieces....I couldn’t resist. I love blue and white ceramics.

I am still amazed by the everyday (for here) things that I see on the streets. Especially the things carried on bicycles and motorbikes. It’s nothing unusual to see a few chickens roosting on a hectic street. 

The cathedral was a French design by Eiffel. Inside, French services were in progress.

John next lead us to Hoa Lo Prison (nick named by the POW American pilots as the “Hanoi Hilton”). It was a prison run by the French during their occupation and then a prison run by the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. John McCain was one of the pilots imprisoned here. The museum tells a very different story than we were told. They showed many happy pictures of the American prisoners having a good time playing volleyball and basketball and celebrating Christmas with all the fixings, all smiling and happy. I wonder if John McCain and the other pilots remember it the same way...I’ll have to check out his book.

We next walked around the French quarter and checked out the Opera House and the Hanoi Stock Exchange.

On pedestrian areas they had tiny electric cars and tanks that you could rent for toddlers. Those kiddies were zipping all  over the place.i had a close call.  It would have been ironic if after surviving Hanoi’s chaotic traffic, I was run over by a four year old in a fast moving mini tank.

We stopped to watch people film a music video.

I noticed a table set for a formal dinner on the street. The crowning centrepiece was a dead, plucked chicken with head and flowers coming out of its beak.

We asked at a number of cafes if they served the famous Vietnamese Egg Coffee. A few of them said yes and then when you sat down with the menu they didn’t have it. We learned to check the menu first because most people’s first response is yes whether they have it or not.

We stopped at McDonalds (to use the washrooms). It was crowded with people and children. At that point I was tired and felt like taking out my umbrella and hacking my way to a table...don’t worry, I didn’t cause it’s not the Canadian way.

In a better mood after resting, we continued around the lake and visited the pagoda set on an island and accessed by a bridge.m

Some students stopped John and I and asked if we could help them with a school assignment. We said yes, they asked us where we were from and then asked to take a picture with us. Not sure what their assignment was but the same thing happened to me yesterday when an older woman asked me to pose in a picture with her. John said they must find me either very attractive or very strange. Hmmm.

We finally found an egg coffee place and it was worth the wait; a whipped egg, vanilla and coffee mix over the strong and slightly bitter Vietnamese coffee.

Those of you who know me know that I rarely drink coffee. Within 40 minutes, I was vibrating. At one point I had a brief dizzy spell and almost fell into a store...weird.

We bought some of the Weasel Coffee. Apparently weasels eat only the best coffee beans but they can’t digest them and they poop them out whole. The beans are then sanitized. I also bought a special Vietnamese coffee filter. Making Vietnamese coffee takes longer than normal coffee.

A Water Puppet Show was our next stop. We had ordered tickets a few days before. The puppet show is on the surface of an indoor pool (the stick controls are under the water and controlled from behind the curtain) with the music performed live on both sides of the stage...very cool.

We stopped for supper at Trip Advisors #1 restaurant for 2017 before returning to our hotel to wait for our ride to the train station. We will travel in a sleeper car for twelve hours to Hue.

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