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Cambodia & Vietnam Trip – Day 18

We are up early, for the city tour, but the bus didn’t turn up until 8am. It was a, medium sized, mini-bus. We picked six others, four Aussies (2 from Newcastle and 2 from Brisbane), and two from France.

Ho Chi Min’s Mausoleum, where we had to leave behind, our bags and cameras. Form a line of two, and walk quietly around, to see his body, laying in a glass case. Brendan was “shushed” by a guard, and the couple behind us were told to remove their sun glasses and a jacket that was tired around their waist. Guards are everywhere, with very stern expressions, and guns. Then it was around to view his offices, and car, which have been kept in their original state, since his death. His summer residence, and large gardens, behind which is the One Pillar Pagoda.

Brendan, while looking at the fish in the pond, was mauled, by a group of Vietnamese tourists. They all wanted to touch him, and have a photo with him. David had to man handle them to get through to Brendan, as he was getting scared.

One Vietnamese guy smacked Brendan, to get him to move out of the way, we think he mistakenly thought he was a child from his family! David wasn’t happy, and threatened the guy, and pushed him away from Brendan.

About one hour later, while we were looking through the Ethnology Museum, the same guy found us. He had been looking for David, to apologise for smacking Brendan, and to make a present of a photo of Ho Chi Min! He even kept kissing David on the shoulder, and it was a very sweaty shoulder!

Ethnology Museum
Opened at the end of 1997, the museum has attracted the attention of visitors, ethnographers and researchers from all over the world. With its astounding collection of 1,000 objects, 15,000 photos and hundreds of tapes about the 60 ethnic groups of Vietnam, it has successfully recreated the daily life together with the religious rituals and the symbolic festivals of each ethnic group

The museum inside was ok, spaced out so not crowded, but the outside was done really well. There were life size houses of the different ethnic groups. They are mostly very large as most were communal; one was really high and had bamboo slats as flooring.

Then on to Hanoi’s Temple of Literature

<%image(20080803-image044.jpg|250|167|The entrance to the Temple of Literature)%>
The entrance to the Temple of Literature
One of the oldest sights in Hanoi is the Temple of Literature, called Van Mieu in Vietnamese. The “temple” was founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, and is dedicated to the Chinese philosopher Confucius. Six years later, Vietnam’s first university was founded here to teach the children of royalty and aristocracy (generally called mandarins). In 1484, another Emperor Le Thanh Tong had stele erected in one of the courtyards to record the statistics and achievements of those who received doctorates from the university. The school continued until its functions were transferred by Emperor Gia Long to the new capital at Hue in 1802.

The long narrow temple complex consists of a sequence of five courtyards divided by walls. The first two courts are basically gardens with mature trees providing shady surroundings while the high temple walls help to subdue the constant noise of the streets surrounding the temple on three sides.

The third courtyard is mostly taken up by a large pond, called the “well of heavenly clarity.” On either side of the pool are the pavilions sheltering the stele honouring the school’s successful doctorate candidates. Each of the stone slabs sits on the back of a tortoise. Generally, the entire piece is carved from a single block of stone.

<%image(20080803-image045.jpg|442|298|Stele honouring the school's successful doctorate candidates)%>
Stele honouring the school’s successful doctorate candidates

Beyond the well of heavenly clarity is the courtyard of the sage sanctuary. This paved courtyard is lined with buildings on three sides. Directly facing you as you enter the courtyard from the previous one is the Great House of Ceremonies, which houses a large red lacquered statue of Confucius. The buildings that flank the Great House now house several gift and souvenir shops.

<%image(20080803-image046.jpg|514|342|Great House of Ceremonies)%>
Great House of Ceremonies

The last courtyard is the Thai Hoc, holding some of the largest structures. Flanking the large two story main hall are a drum and bell tower.

The last stop was at Ngoc Son Temple in Hoam Kiem lake.

Ho Hoan Kiem is the heart of the city, not necessarily geographically but historically and emotionally. The locals use the park that surrounds the lake as a gathering point, for Tai-Chi and jogging in the morning, for commerce and kite-flying during the day and for chess and strolling in the evening.

The name which translates as “Lake Of The Restored Sword” comes from a local variation of the Excalibur legend with a 15th century local fisherman netting a fabulous shining sword while fishing on the lake and using it to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam. When Le Loi now King Le Thai To (r. 1433-1442) returned to the lake to pay tribute, a large tortoise arose from the lake and swallowed the sword returning it to the depths. This divine restoration is commemorated by the red star topped Tortoise Pagoda on a small island in the middle of the lake which has become the emblem of Hanoi.

Giant Tortoises do still live in the lake but it is highly unlikely to see one except for the 2 meter long preserved specimen captured in 1968 that takes pride of place in the Den Ngoc Son (“Temple Of The Jade Mound”) that sits on another of the lake’s islands. The temple established in the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400) is dedicated Tran Hung Dao a general who defeated the Mongols in 1288 and a number of the leading intellectuals of his time including scholar Van Xuong, physician La To and martial artist Quan Vu. Last restored, in 1865, most of the current buildings date to this time.

The entrance to the complex, the Tam Quan (“Three Passage Gate”) is flanked by Chinese letters Phuc (“Luck”) and Loc (“Wealth”) based on the hand-writing of the 19th-century Confucian scholar Nguyen Van Sieu. Just inside the gate the gate stand the Dai Nghien (“Writing Pad”) and an ornate nine-meter-high obelisk the Thap But (“Writing Tower”) inscribed as “a pen to write on the sky”. The island itself is accessed, for a small fee, via the Huc (“Flood of Morning Sunlight”) bridge a beautiful arch of red-lacquered wood, proclaimed as the “place where the morning sun rests”.

This pleasant little temple has long been a place of inspiration for Vietnam’s poets and writers and is now a perfectly serene place to sit in the shade of one of the ancient trees and work on your own compositions in a spot still relatively undisturbed by tourism.

We then walked back to the hotel and changed rooms to a larger one which was facing the front had a shower to cool off as we were really hot and sweaty yet again. Had a phone call from TNK about the trip, to Sapa, leaving tonight!. I thought it was tomorrow so we had to pack all our stuff we needed didn’t know if it was cold so all backpacks packed! Had a quick dinner, at the Jazz Club, just down from the hotel, it wasn’t very nice.

Picked up at 8.30 and transferred to the train station, very old not like ours. Went to our 4 bed birth and got ready. Ended up sharing with an Aussie lady, Alex, from Melbourne, very arty. Brendan and David were on the top bunks, and I was underneath. Brendan went to sleep ok, after playing for a while; we turned off the lights and tried to get comfortable. The beds were not very long, so David had to scrunch up. I didn’t sleep very well, the train made lots of noises and people kept going pass the door. Was interesting though, as it was the first time I had slept over night on a train, not sure if I would like to do it do it again.

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Home Travel Cambodia & Vietnam Trip – Day 18