I had a nice Indian curry last night to make a change from the Vietnamese food. It's interesting that Indian food feels like food from home. That is perhaps why I went to an English bar for a pint after. Today I went South to the Hoa Lu area near Nimh Binh to visit some temples and more karst limestone landscape. And all day I kept bumping into my Russian friends Vladimir and Marina, who were doing exactly the same thing. We all agreed it was like meeting old friends, which is a strange (though familiar) effect of travelling. After I have finished updating this we are having dinner together, nice to have someone to hang out with. Vlad has promised to show me around San Francisco. As Bristol may not have the same appeal, I offered to show them around Bath instead.
Only two accidents on the way there and one on the way back, though as I was sleeping much of the way back I may have missed some. Hanoi has 4 million people and 3 million mopeds, most of which are also carrying the 1 million non-moped owners, as well as everything else you can possibly imagine, and an entirely different set of road 'rules' to pretty much the rest of the world as far as I can tell. I have learnt the difference between a temple and a pagoda though, the latter is specifically religious, the former 'worships' other people of merit such as soldiers, kings, philosophers, scholars, etc. However, both types of buildings look the same and appear to be used for similar purposes.
So first we visit some lovely little temples (belonging to old kings), though both are a little crowded. Then lunch and off for a boat trip up the river amongst karst limestone hills. I thought this might be like an inferior version of Guilin in China or Ha Long Bay, but actually it was really good, despite there being an awful lot of people on the river. We rowed along between towering limestone cliffs and pinnacles, and into three cave-tunnels the river went through. It was fab. In the evening I went out for a nice Italian meal with Vlad and Marina, and we parted hoping to meet again in San Francisco.
30:11:06: Basically spent the entire day walking around Ha Noi, which was great except that the pollution was so bad it made my nose sting. I spent much of the morning in the Fine Art Museum, which had some good stuff. A lot of the art - though very fine as art - was propogandist, or about the American War, but actually this turned out to be really interesting, and I think gave me more insight into it. After lunch in the museum cafe, I spent the early afternoon in the nearby Temple of Literature (Confucian), which was also nice, then a bit of shopping, dinner, traffic watching, and off to the train station on the back of a motorbike through Ha Noi traffic, great fun! Fingers crossed for some sleep on the train!