Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hanoi City Tour: Rickshaw Ride

This is the view from the balcony of our hotel room. Noisy but the vista is fantastically magical and alive. The city is already bustling with activity at 6.00 AM.

Our last day in Hanoi saw us exploring the Old Quarter on foot, as SE wanted to go hunting for souvenirs for friends and family back home. Pretty soon, we found ourselves at the famous Dong Xuan Market where just about everything and anything is sold. I bought myself a knock-off North Face backpack for - get this - US 10!!

This guy on his rickshaw kept following us, beckoning us to hop on his vehicle for a tour around the block. It did look tempting.....

So, after bargaining till we got ourselves a US$2 /hour ride, we decided to give our legs a rest and got on the 'cyclo'.

We don't consider ourselves to be very hefty blokes, so the rickshaw guy was able to cycle us through the frenetically busy roads at a comfortable speed, giving us ample time and opportunities to snap pics.

The Old Quarter is divided into 33 streets, each with its own little concentration of a particular industry and merchandise eg. silverware street, silk street and toys street. This pic was taken at the "headstones street". If you look closely, that's actually an image of Britney Spears on the elaborate headstone on the lower left half of the pic. Poor thing, I didn't know she died. Or Aishwarya Rai. Or Tom Cruise.....

A detour to the West Lake (Ho Tay) gave us a much needed opportunity to stretch our legs and also to savour the beautiful view from the largest lake in Hanoi.

Hanoi is famous for her broad tree-lined boulevards.... and I tell you, it was certainly a memorable experience to 'cruise' down this street at 5kmph as the motorbikes whizzed pass us on our left, right and centre, honking non-stop, never braking, never slowing down.

We stopped at a "roadside restaurant" for a delicious egg sandwich, complete with special sauce and garnishing. C'est délicieux!

The rickshaw puller was surprisingly rather fluent in English and explained to us the history of the sights that we passed by. According to him, this is one of the numerous forts used by the Viet Cong army to maintain control over the people back when it was more chaotic here.

This is the Cathedral of Hanoi, easily the biggest and most majestic in all of Hanoi. This church was built by the French to resemble the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. No hunchbacks running about here though.

All throughout the ride, we came across young ladies on bicycles or on foot carrying their wares for sale, from fruits like grapes and mandarin oranges to raw meat (complete with old-time scales to determine amount purchased!) and curious looking insects. Fried crickets, anyone?

There are many parks in and around Hanoi. Many of the locals love to take afternoon strolls and just watch the world go by, a trait I am sure they inherited from the French. This park is known for its statue of Lenin, one of the last surviving monuments of its kind in the world.

Our lunch came highly recommended by our rickshaw guy and we heartily do too. Grilled fish with lots of fresh vegetables, washed down with light Hanoi beer and coke. Yummmmm....

When he found out that we are Malaysians, he made a quick detour down this lane and that and we soon found ourselves outside this unassuming property - the Malaysian Embassy. What a nice gesture on his part.

SE finally found what he was looking for. Lamps and lanterns of all shapes and sizes. We went crazy in the souvenir shops, trying to find good bargains to finish off our remaining dongs (the local currency) before we left.

Our two hours was over all too soon and after paying him his fare (plus a generous tip), we bade our new friend adieu. And as we boarded our plane for KL, I also bade a fond farewell to Hanoi, a city steeped in history, charm and beauty. Three days was too short a time to savour all that this city had to offer. I shall be back. Au revoir!


AG said...

nice photos:)

sbanboy said...

I wanna go for a ride :D

Amazonman said...

Come lah. But I think if two of us go cannot sit in one same 'cyclo' lah. Kesian the old guy sure his legs patah. hehehe

Shah said...

Hiya. How's things? Haven't heard from you for some time.

Asther said...

Wow... US$2/hr was a great bargain! Really beautiful shot of the Cathedral too. I'd like to visit Hanoi one day. Let me know if you're returning there, ok? I can be your travelling kaki!