My best friend and her family arrived on Sunday, after a bad flight delay from Delta. The customer service from Delta has got to be the worst in the world. Their airport staff are rude and unsympathetic. I have experienced it myself — many times, in many different airports. The story of Delta making a family of four miss their flight from New York to Seoul, Korea, is basically one of gross incompetence.
Anyway, I’m not going to tell that story here. I’m glad they finally arrived safely — even though it was one day late! And all due to the stupidity of Delta and their extremely rude counter staff in Washington and New York. Naturally, when the family switched over to Korean Air, all the staff were very friendly, polite, professional, and sympathetic. What a pleasure to fly with a good airline!
So, the fast notes: Saturday, one of the Vietnamese journalists, Thuy, offered to show me around Hanoi a bit. We visited Phu Tay Ho temple — a beautiful setting, and very nicely kept up. Then we strolled around the botanical gardens. I had to meet Larry at 1 p.m., so Thuy and I parted then. Later I did a lot of walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake area.
Phu Tay Ho temple, in Hanoi.
Sunday morning I went to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. This is certainly among the best museums in all Southeast Asia! The highlight is the full-size traditional houses, tombs, and other buildings standing in a tree-shaded park behind the big white museum building. I loved looking at the construction of the walls, roofs, and floors. The techniques are similar to those I saw in the jungle in East Malaysia (Borneo) and also at the museum in Terengganu. The baskets and the big Chinese jars (fired pottery) were much like the ones in Iban longhouses.
Bun nem: Sidewalk fare, about $1.25 for lunch.
Sunday afternoon I went to Jodi’s hotel to meet them when they arrived. Sunday night I met Thuy and her friend Chung, and after a wonderful dinner of steamed duck soup with glass noodles, we went to someone’s home to hear a concert of traditional Tru singing. Wow, that was so cool! The women were all so beautiful in their ao dai dresses, and even a very young girl (about 11 years old) gave us a sample of her wonderful singing voice.
Monday Jodi’s family and I all went out for pho bo for breakfast, at Pho 24 on Thi Sach Street, followed by a walk around the lake and a visit to Ngoc Son temple (in the middle of the lake). Lunch was at Quan An Ngan, on Phan Boi Chau Street — really fantastic, and quite a bargain too.
Johnny and Lydia, jet-lagged at Ngoc Son temple.
After lunch, the Hoa Lo prison and then the water puppet show at the theater just north of the lake. We all really enjoyed the water puppets a lot (except maybe Johnny … we’ll ask him later). The accompanying music was excellent, and some of the skits had us laughing out loud. Even though the audience is mostly Western tourists, the show did not seem tacky or stupid (not dumbed down for stupid tourists). Production values seemed quite high, and the dozen puppeteers really showed a lot of skill in their manipulation of the wooden puppets. When they came out for a bow at the end, we all applauded them enthusiastically.
The Schmitt-Young-Nguyen family, at Hoa Lo prison, Hanoi.
Tomorrow we are leaving for Ha Long Bay — blog posting may become very sparse!