POST 3 – 30 DAYS IN VIETNAM
Highland Coffee Shop, at 5 Dinh Tien Hoang, overlooking the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake. Although this place gets it’s share of bad reviews, we found it a great place to chill out. Situated on the third floor of a major intersection, the night views were great. As is usual in Vietnam the service was very laid back which annoys some people. It is this same attitude that enabled us to sit comfortably, recharging our computer and using the fast Wifi. The coffees and cool drinks were good, the atmosphere relaxing and the rest rooms clean.
After our morning exploring the streets and markets of the old quarter we decided to walk to the National Museum of Vietnamese History at 1P Trang Tien, at the south-eastern end of the lake. We headed in the direction of the General Post Office, near Indira Ghandi park, where the imposing statue of Ly Thai To (first king of the Ly Dynasty) stands. With our posting taken care of, it was time to check out the statue and walk through streets so different to those in the Old Quarter. This was the French District, where footpaths are wide and uncluttered enough to walk with ease. In some places there were badminton courts permanently marked, which were popular with office workers on lunch breaks. Games were played with much gusto and good will.
The area was definitely up-market, with the Press Club (bars and cafes open to public), Hilton, Sofitel, Opera House and three Museums, but the usual footpath barbers still plied their trade, in the shade of a tree or fence.
One of the first buildings designed with a mix of French and Vietnamese architecture, the museum is on two levels and has floating exhibitions that spice up the permanent exhibits. On a hot day it was wonderful to soak up the cool and calm of this beautiful place.
Walking through Indira Ghandi park on our return, we found the tiled area in front of the statue, all the way to the lake had come alive with ball games. The small ball was skilfully kicked back and forth between two or four players with stylish kung fu like moves. I got the feeling the moves were of more importance then the actual result. Flower sellers had appeared and tourists and locals milled around. It reminded me of the Italian Passeggiata.
Racing home to the Rising Dragon Hotel, we had just enough time to jump in the taxi arranged by the front desk and head to the station for the train to Sapa. That particular train left from a different side of the station and our taxi driver in an attempt to drop us at the correct gate, was stopped by a policeman who confiscated his papers. After dropping us at the station, he had to return, collect the papers, and he confided, most likely pay a fine. I did feel sorry for him, because the Vietnamese people work so hard to make a living, but he was pragmatic about it.
We had already purchased some snacks for the overnight trip but we stocked up on some last minute drinks and Oreos and climbed onboard!
See you in Sapa.
This post forms part of the One Month in Vietnam Series.
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