Vinh picks us up again in the late afternoon. It is our last day of sight seeing in Vietnam and we have a few errands to run as well. Vinh has been an amazing find. He knows Hanoi inside out and helps us with everything. My day pack needs mending as the zip has broken and I asked if he knew a place where we could get it fixed.
He takes us down dingy alleyways to a place we would never have found or walked into on our own. There are piles of stuff everywhere and we climb a few narrow stairways to a room where I meet these guys and explain what I want with Vinh’s help. They promise to have it all done in a few hours…and I wonder what the result will be. They quote $2! Hours later when we come back to pick it up I am astounded…they have done an amazing job..my pack is fixed and they have even transferred the clips from my old zip! You can’t put a price on this kind of service.
We’ve decided to visit “Uncle Ho’s” mausoleum and the museum. We are too late to see his embalmed body but enjoy the museum. It is the funkiest place where bits of modern art are mixed in with info on Vietnam’s history and the late Ho Chi Minh. Very cool. On my way out I run into this man…he looks so amazing and about a 100 years old..so I ask if I can take his picture. He is thrilled but can’t speak a word of English. I snap away and show him some of the results. He beams at me….obviously proud to have been the ‘focus’ of my attention!!!
We walk across the road to the 1 pillar pagoda. The smell of incense and the chanting of devotees greet our arrival and we are amazed at the intricate statues inside this reconstructed building dates back to more than a 1000 years.
Vinh is a catholic and he drives by the church he worships at. We hit gold again. It is evening mass and there is a massive crowd gathered outside to watch as the priests, nuns and the choir walk in
procession inside to the accompaniment of music that is played over loudspeakers. For a town that consists of mostly Buddhist, there are hundreds of people gathered here for worship. We are amazed once again. Hanoi is such a mix of ancient rituals and modernisation. We go past the French Quarter and Vinh stops for us to have a look around the shops. We visit one of the trendiest shops in the district and find they are using black mannequins to advertise their clothes. This surprises me because we have seen so much emphasis in this part of the world on staying light skinned..every product sold in the shops here has some sort of “whitening” product added to it, that seeing dark skin and hair celebrated in this way was really unusual!
It was time to head back so we ask Vinh to drop us off at the lake where we stop for coffee and a walk. The lake is beautiful at night and many Vietnamese come down here to practice their tai chi and yoga moves. We have cake and cappuccinos and say our goodbyes to Hanoi!
“If you actually look like your passport photo, you aren’t well enough to travel.” – Sir Vivian Fuchs