2019, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Vietnam Day 19: Hanoi Wednesday October 9, 2019

For some reason I wrote that breakfast wasn’t as good today. I think it must have been the non-buffet part of it. This might have been the day I ordered French Toast, which wasn’t good. (Also, no maple syrup or peanut butter. Sad face emoji.)

We walked to the French Quarter to go to the history museum. We walked by the Opera House.

Hanoi Opera House

We got to the history museum only to find that they would be closing for lunch in an hour. (So many things close for lunch.) We had once again gotten off to a late start because of our hotel room of darkness.

So we wandered around the first floor and looked at the pottery and other relics until the announcement of their closure.

We then walked up towards the Old Quarter and found ourselves in the business district or, as Jenn put it, “Bay Street”. We found a store and Jenn had the infamous egg coffee, while I had juice as usual.

We wandered back down to the French Quarter so Jenn could check out a mall. The mall was super ritzy – ritzier than the ones in Saigon we went to. And by then the museum was reopening.

The second floor of the museum was a lot more interesting than the first floor, in part because there were many more signs of development. One of the interesting things about civilization in Vietnam is that, prior to a certain point, it feels like it had more in common with the rate of development of the civilizations in the Americas than Europe. Everything is very “primitive” (for lack of a better word) until only a couple of centuries before the French arrived. There’s no explanation offered by the museum, and I have only ever read one book about Vietnam and it was years ago. My guess is that something about the climate made it harder to achieved leaps in technology. (Or, conversely, something about geography/the climate made it unnecessary.)

Then we walked across the street to the see the Revolutionary Museum, which is part two. Throughout both museums there is a sense that Vietnam is begging to be recognized as a civilization, as if being colonized by the Chinese, the French, the Japanese, the French again and then the Americans has made them a little self conscious. The museums feel like they are not just there for the curious but they are there to justify Vietnam’s existence as an independent country. That feeling reaches new heights in the Revolutionary Museum, where the propaganda is upped substantially.

But the parts about how the Vietnamese resisted the French are quite interesting, as I didn’t know much about it. (Though there is not that much in the way of explanation and if you really want the full story the audio guide is probably necessary.)

I was interested in the part about the divided country as I wondered how they would handle it. Basically they refer to South Vietnam as a puppet state set up by the Americans, which is not entirely accurate. One of the issues with the museums in a one-party state is that they aren’t always honest.

The part about the American War basically emphasized the devastation, much like the War Remnants museum. It was also harrowing but not quite as much as the museum in Saigon.

We wandered around looking for food afterwards and we walked by the ubiquitous Argentinian steakhouse. (Are you in a city that gets tourists? There’s an Argentinian steakhouse there somewhere.) I mention it because they were advertising a steak that cost as much as hiring a driver to take you from Hoi An to Hue. That is insane.

We found a place down an alley to eat lunch. They said “combo” and we said sure. It turned out to be the same thing we ate in Saigon, but different. What we ate in Saigon was described as “northern” food, so it’s likely the Hanoi version was closer to the real thing. But this one was better – or, perhaps it was just the second time we had it so it wasn’t so damn weird. Either way, we really enjoyed our meal in this basement.

I should mention that my knee wasn’t bothering me anywhere near as much today, which is I guess we were able to spend so many hours in museums.

I have no idea what we did next as I don’t seem to have a record of it. Had we had a pool at our hotel, we no doubt would have gone swimming. But I guess we just went back to the hotel for a while. Who knows?

Later we went out looking for a jewelry shop which found us walking through a different part of the Old Quarter than before. We walked around for a while and then I saw the name of something I wanted to try. We sat down and were ignored a for a while. As the son was leaving, his mom motioned for him to handle the foreigner’s order before he left.

What we ate is supposed to be a breakfast or lunch dish, not a dinner dish, but since they still had some we still ate it. It was porridge, but much thicker than congee. It was closer to biscuits and gravy only imagine bigger pieces of meat, thicker gravy, and small slices of fried dough instead of the biscuits and you get the vaguest idea of what it’s like. It was definitely one of the weirdest things we ate in Vietnam.

After dinner we wandered the Old Quarter and eventually found our way back to the beer bar we went to on the very first night in Hanoi where we once again tried bottles from Vietnamese breweries and cideries. It was much more busy this time for some reason. i should mention Hanoi Cider; Jenn had two of them and they were both excellent. The one she had that first night was among the best ciders I’ve ever had and this one was pretty good too.

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