Miscellaneous in Hanoi, Hanoi
Make-shift barber stalls use to dot the streets of Singapore. Today, you can only find them in places in Hanoi City
Street side barbers clip their customer's hair in the open. They work fast and concentrate well despite the buzz from the traffic.Hum the "Barber of Seville" when you see them..
Where:On a little street, outside of Hilton Hanoi
The old folks at Ho An Kiem Lake are a fascinating lot. Observe them from a distance discretely and watch them play Chinese Chess.
Brows furrowed in concentration, contemplating their every move on a wooden chess board.
Where:A Pavilion at Ngoc Son Temple, Ho An Kiam Lake
Not many know this but the ‘tortoises’ of Hoan Kiem Lake are actually rare Asian soft-shelled freshwater giant TURTLES .It's rumoured that one of these creatures grabbed a sword from an emperor once and returned it to heaven. Look out for a preserved specimen in the temple.
Preserved for the eternity, the sword grabber maintains an austere pose for locals and tourists alike.
Where:Ngoc Son Temple, Ho An Kiem Lake
The narrow houses that you see in the Old Quarters are known as tube or tunnel houses. There's a gd reason for this. Businesses were formerly taxed according to the width of their storefront and this resulted in shops only two metres wide with a maze of rooms extending behind to a length of up to 60m.
Ancient narrow houses line the streets of the Old Quarters, each squeezed against the other
Where:The Old Quarters
A little old man sits in his little shop, wedged in a corner and churns of sketches from the yesteryears. HIs ex-colonial masters have left a deep impression on him as he wears a beret and speaks fluent french.
Gable, Leigh, Newman and Garbo with a deft flick of charcoal on nimble hands.
Where: Hang Bac St, Old Quarters, Hanoi
The Vietnamese make their masks out of traditional materials like bamboo and coconut leaves. Used in the local traditional theatre, each mask express a different character and emotion.
Every kind of emotion can be found on the faces of traditional theatre.
Where:Hang Can Street
Observe the old folks around Ho An Kiem Lake if you can. Do it discretely and with respect of course. You can catch them dancing tai chi, reading or playing chess in groups.
A small old man reads in solitude at Ngoc Son Temple. Clad against the cold only in a wolly warm Russian Hat and thin blue-striped pajamas.
Where:Ho An Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple.
The red bridge at Ho An Kiem has a Vietnamese name that roughly translates to "where the sun light is absorbed" . The bridge leads to Dac Nguyet Lau or "Moon Light tower" which is Ngoc Son shrine. Hmm, the sun and moon meeting. Sounds like a song from Ms Saigon.
The Sun and Moon meets at the Lake of the Restored Sword.
Where:Ho An Kiem Lake, near Old Quarters
If you're ever in the History Museum, look out for the big presidential investiture painting and see if you notice anything strange.
Pray tell me, why are the soldiers pointing the guns at the civilians during the presidential investiture of Uncle Ho?
Where: 2nd floor, History Museum
#1 Trang Tien Street
Hanoi is full of places of interest for tourists, yet I believe that one of the best things you can do there is looking further than at the standard sights. For instance, driving along some streets will give you an insight into daily Hanoian life with all its facets. A particularly interesting street to drive along (by bike or motorbike) is La Thanh Street. Starting from near the junction of Dai Co Viet Road and Le Duan Road, it leads 5kms through several less known parts of the city all of which are really great to see Vietnamese daily life. There are the obvious fruit vendors next to houses in which metals are processed. There are outdoor food stalls almost on the street that make it smell of fried spring rolls. There are tiny kiosks next to carpenters. Actually, a long part of the street is dedicated only to wood processing, making the air smell of freshly cut wood. La Thanh Street's only disadvantage is its role as one of Hanoi's main road links. Although a rather narrow street, it always seems to be full of traffic. If you go there remember to be careful as the traffic is not easy to survive unharmed.
Le Van Huu street is a little bit away from the centre and just around the corner of the apartment I lived in when in Hanoi. In my opinion, it's one of the most beautiful streets of Hanoi as it is very interesting and busy in a number of ways. Coming from Hue street, the first thing you'll experience is a smell: The upper part of Le Van Huu street is full of coffee shops and the air smells wonderful of freshly brewed coffee. Further down the street, there are a number of sign shops in which you can have signs for your office or company made. Apparently, there's a huge demand for signs as I've never seen anybody being idle in these shops - everybody was busy producing signs. Some metres further, you'll come across a little market on the left side where dog meat (Thit Cho) is sold. Try it if you dare: It's supposed to be a luck-bringing food at the end (and only then!) of the lunar month. For those of you who do not want to eat man's best friend, walk on until you see heaps of fresh fruit on your right side. You might want to turn into the side streets and visit nearby Tran Xuan Soan market - it's only a five minute walk from here. Further down the road there are several cafes and a good restaurant (Quan Com Pho, see restaurant tips). A last thing to see is the antiquarian bookshop at the bend on Le Van Huu street. Le Van Huu street stretches from Hue street to Phan Chu Trinh street.
Take a double-look at the menus in local restaurants in Hanoi. You'll find choices that are simply out of this world but normal to a Hanoian.
Fried Snake Pie or Beef Testicles Stewed with Duck? Baffling Choices on a Menu.
Where:216 Pho Tran Quang Khai, HoanKiem District
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology has an excellent outdoor section where ethnic tribal houses can be seen and explored. Take note of some kooky details if you're there.
Yin and Yang staircases at the foot of the Tay Longhouse.
Where: Nguyen v.Huyen Road, 191/20/10 Nghia Do, Can Ciay
Ever wondered why you see cranes on the back of the tortoises in Vietnamese temples? Well, these animals carry a silent message as the tortoise is believed to live ten thousand years, and the crane one thousand years; and they're seen mostly in temples dedicated to Confucius, emperors and local spirits.
Two animals mouth a silent message: May you be remembered for one thousand years, and may your cult endure for ten thousand years.
Where:Nguyen Thai Hoc
If you love legends, you're gonna love this tale about how an emperor named drove out some Chinese bastards with a sword loaned from the Sea King. After victory however, the emperor decided to keep the sword and made the Sea King explode in fits. After Neptune calmed down, he sent a tortoise to retrieve his sword. Well, he didn't have to really, the sword magically flew from the scabbard into the mouth of the retriever. The lake became known as the lake of the restored sword ever since.
A sword on its back instead of its mouth! An artist's mistake displayed at the Ngoc Son.
Where: Entrance to Ngoc Son Temple, Ho An Kiem Lake