Hanoi City
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Horrible traffic in Hanoi

Oh boy - if we thought Sai Gon traffic was bad, try this then in Hanoi. No road rules hardly at all, and those that do exist, like the pedestrian crossings, are simply ignored. Very scary for these aged chickens. Still, we must be intrepid, and must carry on. So, hearts in mouth we slowly wend our way between a thousand speeding motorcycles, two hundred push bikes and sundry cars - all tooting and looking like they'd seriously like to do in a couple of fat cat capitalists from the west.

Hanoi is the capital, 4m people, and resting place of Uncle Ho at the massive mausoleum, and symbolic heart, for many centuries, of Vietnam. I forget - this is the ONLY nation that defeated both the French and the Americans at war - how weird is that? They have nothing but guts, enterprise and sadly fading family values. What we seem to have seen to date is the traditional family working together to ensure that they all share in whatever comes along. I was saddened today, to hear from the tour company operator during our debrief that such traditional structures are breaking down and young ones are wearing. The original pagoda was built here in 1049. It has been rebuilt many times, but questions are still raised as to why the French burned it down in the 1950s innappropriate garments and doing stuff that is unacceptable, and worse, they are not interested in working for the family unit. I guess this is history repeating itself, but boy it sounds familiar.

Jenny commented that Vietnam is less developed than she imagined, and yes that is right. While there are some glass towers, by and large we have only seen a few industrial parks, and one hell of a lot of tiny weeny enterprises. The overall drive is to get your children off the farm and into education - which is seen as the saviour for the next generation. Kids are driven into study, and it is the only way out of poverty - and even a degree is not an automatic ticket to success.

The economy might be growing by 5% pa, but there is a lot of sadness we have seen on the streets, not the least a lot of deformed people - which I wonder is possibly a legacy of the American War. There are a lot of beggars and people selling weird cheap home made stuff, as well as flogging t-shirts, postcards and so on.

So we arrived in Hanoi this am, and visited Ho Chin Minh's mausoleum, but sadly he was in Russia getting his annual dobie up, so we couldn't file respectfully past his mummified body. We then visited a lovely pagoda on a single pedestal, where, if you want babies - that is where you go to pray. We then went to the university which turned out to be a huge surprise. Not only was it established long before Heny VIII was even a twinkle in someone's eye, but it is the most extraordinarily beautiful enormous compound. The entrance is pretty traditional, with the royal path down the centre of a garden, through to a pavillion. Then it is on and on, through pavillions, temples, more gardens and finally to the university itself. Most extraordinary, and the ground are simply stunning with unreal topiary, enormous drums and bells in their own pavillions, decorative gardens and statuary dating back to the 1300s showing the learnings and wisdom of the then students.

This was pretty cool on its own, but it was also graduation day for the students, which now include women (girls). So there they all were, in traditional aoi dai, hair done, lots of makeup and high heels. Visitors walk through gate after gate through to a magnificent temple. Davie is now 'Buddah'd out' Simply lovely - they are so small and fragile (benefits of lack of food and lashings of hard work I suspect).

The hotel was next - three star (drat, we were enjoying the luxury stuff we thought) - well this is simply magnificent - can't understand the star system, but this is top notch, and we've been upgraded to a suite. Lots more glorious food, a bit of a stroll down the night market, and now Davie is asleep and I am drinking green tea and whiskey before joining him in the giant bed.


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