The train rolled into Hanoi central station at before 5am. As it approached the station the guard went through the carriages banging on the cabin doors.
I got up and watched the city go past. People had houses right beside the railway lines. From the train window I could see right into their rooms, catching gimpses of TV screens on. It seemed odd having the same view from the train as those in whose houses we were passing.
At 4:45am we arrived and a bit after 5am so did the train that was carrying our tandem. By 6am we got to the hotel that I'd phoned the previous night and dropped our stuff off.
Unfortunately we couldn't get into our room until later in the morning. As the city slowly awoke we wandered into the centre about 10 minutes away, to the Hoan Kiem lake. The lake, more like a large pond, was surrounded by grand buildings and a nice shady walking path, being a fine Saturday morning people were out jogging and doing calistenics. At one end in the water there was an old tower. At the other end there was small island with a temple dedicated to the mythical turtles that were supposed to live in the lake. There were photos of ones that were apparantly sighted there but in such an urban setting it seemed that some degree of fabrication was involved, perhaps to keep the myth alive.
In the morning we took a pedalo, a bicycle taxi, to see the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh aka Uncle Ho. The father of Vietnamese socialism, was preserved in state in a grand building for all respectful visitors to see. After checking in our bags we joined a huge line of people who filed through the building. Guards kept peopple moving and ensured that they did nothing so disrespectful as putting their hands in their pockets. Ho Chi Minh's body sat like a waxwork in a caskette. It was quite a fascinating thing to see.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the old town and learning how to cross roads Hanoi style. The main vehical was the scooter and there were millions of them. Traffic lights were sort of respected. At the first the idea of going into this traffic seemed foolhardy but after watching people do it and survive we realised that it was just a matter of watching for a gap then walking across slowly and steadily. No-one would stop for you or give way or even slow down, instead they would go around you.
In the evening we went to see a traditional show of water puppetry. The stage was a pool of water with background and props sitting in it. The puppets were operated on long poles by puppetiers who were concealed behind a screen. A small band of musicians on the side accompanied the puppetry performance. The show though with little commentary was quite accessable. We had a programme which listed the itles of the short pieces, which all had helpfully descriptive names such as fishing or raising ducks.
Being a Saturday night town was especially full and when we came out of the theatre we marvelled at how the main road had become a maelstrom of scooters, eveyone beeping and jockying for position on the road. We observed no crashes or even altercations which seemed miraculous.
Sunday was a continuation of Saturday with more strolling around town. By the end of it we were ready to leave Hanoi and head somewhere a bit quieter for our last few days.
We stayed at the Tang Trung hotel in Hanoi old town for 2 nights, paying 15 USD per night without breakfast.
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