With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Fun With Uncle Ho

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 15, 2009

May 14, 2008

All Pictures

Hanoi

No Dong

The bus dropped me off somewhere in Hanoi. I had no dong and no plans, but I met a cute couple from my bus. We chatted at one of the rest stops. They had reservations at a hotel in Hanoi and planned to take a taxi there. Since it would cost nothing extra for me to ride in their cab they told me that I could join them. Once again I would like to say that I love the name the Vietnamese picked for their currency!

Me and temples…

No Rooms

Once we got to their hotel, I was told that it was fully booked. The receptionist, who happened to also be the owner of the hotel told me that she and her sister owned another hotel. She called a guy who she referred to as “little brother” and told him to take me to the other hotel. I hopped on his scooter, shoved my afro into a helmet, and held onto my backpack. He took me to the Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel.

When I got there, the receptionist, who happened to be the sister of the first lady, started to check me in. (I’m not sure if they were biologically sisters or just good friends.) When I told her that I didn’t have any dong, she said that it didn’t matter, “You pay when you check out. This not China!” I loved her instantly.

I ate dinner at the hotel because I could put that on my bill and pay it later. I even signed up for a few trips. I knew that I would find an ATM at some point before I planned to check out or at least stay until I found one. If all else failed I could pay in US dollars or Euros, both are welcomed if not preferred over the dong.

HSBC was my bank of choice. They have ATM’s in many countries. When I got money in Vietnam from an HSBC ATM, I paid no ATM fees. I have since closed my account at HSBC because it’s hard to talk to a human when I call. I have to know a hundred and one codes just to log in or call. And there was something else… oh this.

Uncle Ho’s House

Just to meet some people

In the hotel by the front desk, were posters of day and overnight trips. There was a book that had the trips laid out in detail, with prices for different levels of accommodations. One great thing about the Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel was that the sisters who own it, also owned a junk on Ha Long Bay.

A trip to Ha Long Bay is a great way to get ripped off if you don’t know who to book your trip through.

I usually don’t like tours, but I was traveling alone and wanted to meet some people. There was also the additional benefit that while on a tour, I would not get lost. I picked one of the Hanoi City tours with tickets to see a water puppet show in the evening.

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

We first went to The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Uncle Ho looked a bit creepy, but the man has been dead for almost 40 years. He was the first dead communist leader I had ever seen. I would end up seeing many more. Actually, only two. Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-Il has still eluded me and it turns out that they eventually buried both Stalin and Evita Perón, not that Eva was a communist or a leader.

Next it was Ho Chi Minh’s vestige right next to the Mausoleum. I loved that the house he chose to live in was so modest with 3 or 4 BMWs parked out back. I’m sure it’s what the people wanted.

Our next stop was to the Ethnology Museum. It’s really not very interesting indoors. I really don’t care about the many races of Asians that live, or have lived in Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. Which means I care even less about each individual group’s pottery. To be honest I’m only impress by air-tight containers

But the grounds of the museum was interesting. There were many displays of housing for the plethora of peoples who peopled south-east Asia. Tourists are encouraged to climb in, on, up, and around the structures. And I did! Plus there were some very interesting fertility tombs. Though, I think that once you’re dead, you’re pretty much infertile for good.

We passed by a few forgettable temples. The only one that stood out in my mind was Ngoc Son Temple which was in the middle of the lake. There were some monks doing some serious praying that day, but I don’t know what for.

Dry Water Puppets

Then there was the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. The water puppets show was all in Vietnamese and lasted 50 minutes. It got boring within the first 10 minutes, but the theater had air-conditioning so I stayed. It was worth all 20,000 Dong (2 dollars at the time) of the ticket price just to cool down!

All Pictures


Vietnam
(Việt Nam)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
  • Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the airport either in your country or in Vietnam. Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
  • When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
  • Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
  • Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
    • Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
  • Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
  • For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
  • Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo. 
  • It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.

Hanoi
(Hà Nội)
About this sound

How to get there:

By Bus from Nanning, China –

The bus station is called Lang Dong Bus Station. You can get there from Nanning Train station by taking city bus #6. The city bus costs 2 Yuan. There might be more buses that go between the train station and the bus station, but the #6 is the one that I know.

Once at the bus station you can buy a ticket on the next available bus out. They seem to run every two hours or as they fill up. There will be empty seats on the Chinese bus because the bus in Vietnam is much smaller. You change buses at the border, so the drivers never leave the country. The ticket costs 150 Yuan.

The ride is about 7 hours, but it will seem longer than that once they start to play the horrible Vietnamese pop music and the guy next to you starts throwing up in the aisle. I heard the Hanoi-Nanning train is worse, though I can’t see how.

I recommend getting someone to write a note for you stating that you want bus tickets to Hanoi.

Website

Notes:

  • Make sure to bring your own pen. They do not have pens at any of the border controls and you will need to fill out a few forms.
  • Depending on what country you are from, you should get your visa before going to Vietnam.
    • As an America, I needed to have a visa before entering.

Hanoi Blue Sky

Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel
(Khách Sạn Hanoi Blue Sky)
The Golden Time Hostel*

How to get there:

Address:

2 Hàng Gà, Hà Noi, Hanoi, Vietnam

Phone:

  • 3923 0514
  • 3923 1849

Website

Videos:

Notes:

  • *While looking up information on The Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel, I noticed that the name has changed. They might have redecorated too.
  • You can book tours of Hanoi and to Ha Long Bay here.
  • They have free internet.
  • There is a restaurant in the hostel.
  • You can pay to have your laundry done here.
  • You don’t have to stay at Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel or any of the other sister hotels to book a trip or tours with them.

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
(Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh)

How to get there:

  • 21°02’11.6″N 105°50’05.5″E

It is about a 30 minute walk from Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. It shouldn’t cost too much to take a taxi, motorbike taxi, or a cyclo. You can also take bus #9 or #14.

Address:

5 Pho Ngoc Ha Hanoi, Vietnam

Phone:

  • +84 4 942 1061

Website

Cost:

  • It is free to enter, but you are not allowed to bring anything like a purse, camera, water bottle, etc in with you.
  • There are lockers you can rent for a fee. If you are on a tour, your tour guide will hold your stuff for you.

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 11:00  Tues-Thur & Sat
Videos:

Notes: 

  • It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.

Museum of Ethnology
(Bảo tàng Dân tộc học Việt Nam)

How to get there:

  • 21°02’22.6″N 105°47’52.9″E

The Museum is located in the Cau Giay district, twenty minutes by taxi from the city center. Take the #14 minibus which runs from Dinh Tien Hoang Street, north of Hoan Kiem lake, to the Nghia Tan stop a few blocks from the Museum.

Address:

Nguyen Van Huyen St, Cau Giay, Hano

Phone:

  • (84-4) 37562193

Website

Hours:

Everyday 8:30 – 17:30 except Mondays and Vietnam New Year’s day

Cost:

  • Adult – 25,000VND,
  • Kids – 5,000VND,
  • Kids under 6 – Free

Notes:

  • Don’t forget to check out the grounds.

Ngoc Son Temple
(Đền Ngọc Sơn)

How to get there:

  • 21°01’49.7″N 105°51’09.3″E

It’s the shrine in the middle of  Hoan Kiem Lake. Hoan Kiem Lake is in the tourist district of Hanoi. Most hostels or hotel worth visiting are within a walking distance of this lake.

If you have a hard time finding this place, just stop anyone walking around and ask them for directions.

Remember that you can get a free map from just about any hotel or hostel.

Cost:

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 17:00 everyday
Videos:

Notes:

  • It gets pretty hot in Hanoi during the day. It might be a good idea to walk around this place in the evening rather than in the middle of the day.
  • You could even end your walk with a visit to the water puppet theater. It has air conditioning!

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
(Múa rối nước)

How to get there:

  • 21°01’54.3″N 105°51’12.9″E

It is very near Hoan Kiem Lake. Ask anyone in the area and they will be able to point you in the right direction.

Address:

57b Dinh Tien Hoang Str., Hanoi – Vietnam

Phone:

  • (84) 4 39364335 or
  • 39364334 or
  • 38255450

Website

Cost:

  • About 1 USD
  • with an extra .50USD if you want to take photos.

Hours:

Shows last for about 50 minutes. The first show starts around 13:45 and the last around 20:00. There is a 9:30 show on Sunday mornings.

Notes:

It’s one of the few things in town with air conditioning!

Map:

Click here for Google maps

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