stop making an ass of yourself over a few dong
Once on the lake, we were quickly called over by some locals to join their impromptu party. We were happy to grab a space on their blanket, as it was already quite crowded. They offered us some local snacks and we opened up a bottle of wine we had bought for the occasion. They enjoyed practicing their English and one young girl, fascinated with Doreen’s long blond hair, sat behind her and stroked it most of the evening. She felt a bit like a golden monkey in a cage but the obvious genuine affection with which she did it, made it more amusing than annoying. The scene around us was much the same with groups of people sharing their goods and company on big blankets. The fireworks came and went but what we will always remember are the smiles of our welcoming hosts.
Since we were leaving the next day, we went back to the hotel, half expecting another problem with our tickets. Surprisingly, the lobby was full of people from the hotel, sitting around much like at the lake. We were warmly greeted and given our tickets immediately. I told them this was a good sign for the New Year and we were then offered some local delicacies associated with the holiday. It was a nice continuation of the earlier feelings and a relief to finally have our ticket out of town in hand.
Later that evening, in our room, I took a closer look at the ticket. The real price was in Dong, the local currency, and far less than what we paid. I expected as much but made no comment on it when I left the next morning. It was, after all, a New Year. In fact, the Year of the Monkey, and I figured it was time to stop making an ass of myself over a few Dong. Just the same, I made a mental note to buy my tickets at the train station next time.
Be invited and get gifts from a woman monk!
Chua Sai pagoda
Walking back to the city, from the area of Trich Sai, on the west shore of Ho Tay lake, I came across the Sai Pagoda (Chua Sai).
Some sorts of garden dwarves welcomed me at the entrance, in a nice garden, with basins surrounded by orange trees.
Only local people here, coming for praying and meditation; I was very moved when a monk woman offered me a tea in a room nearby a prayer room, and when I left, she offered me star fruits and cooked rice (I did not look like a beggar!!!!); again communication was with eyes, and very few words; she is on the third picture.
Chua Sai is very ornate, lots of statues, flowers, I am more used to austere places, when I visit places of prayer or meditation. I just admired the place, looked at the strange statues (picture4), where I could recognise Buddha and a sort of a Shiva. I do not know who all these statues (picture 5) represent, what they mean, all this richness is very impressive. I spent one hour there, walking in the garden, drinking tea, looking at the temple, watching people pray; yes it is good for interior peace.
West shore of Ho Tay lake, North of Thuy Khue Avenue
Books, books, and more books
Mr. Dinh has been in business on Nha Tho Street for 9 years. Need something to read at bedtime? A travel guide to Vietnam or Hanoi? A Vietnamese phrasebook? Mr. Dinh has it all. He's a nice guy. Don't be fooled my imitations. Dinh is pronounced "ding" Sells, exchanges new and secondhand books. Much less than the US price, normally. Many books are used.
Trustworthy Moto Driver
I met this guy outside of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum & he turned out to be a great find. Inexpensive, knowledgeable, & friendly, Thang was my guide for 4 days in Hanoi. Give him a call if in Hanoi by yourself and in the mood for seeing the sights while shooting around the city on the back of a Moto.
Good breakfast buffet at a great price -- $2USD!
I ate at this estaurant one morning in April, 2008. Had a very good breakfast buffet for $2USD. Large selection of fruit, juices, hot entrees, cold cereals, baguette, pastries, toast, tea/coffee. Friendly, clean, small, only a few tables.