Your Portrait

I saw an angel, of that I am sure …

Sparkling eyes – deeper than the deepest sea

Flexible body – bending like a willow tree

Open mind, taste refined

And a heart of gold – the one you rarely find.

Gentle hands – warm like an ocean tide

Beautiful face reflects richness inside

Sweet smile – natural like a poem rhyme

And shining, shining all the time.

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Veteran Sparring: Taekwon-do Tenets in Action

Young martial artists and sportsmen can learn a lot from “veterans.”

I love the below sparring final video from the 2016 World Cup (Budapest) for two reasons.

First, you can clearly see how the opponents respect each either despite high stakes. After all, this was a fight for the champion title. This is what courtesy is about – the first tenet of taekwondo.

Second, the master from Argentina managed to literally squeeze out the victory six seconds before the match end. He demonstrated a true indomitable spirit – another tenet of taekwondo.

A great example of tenets in action.

Xin chao, Hanoi: Flower Garden (day 5)

The previous night a local girl advised me to visit Vườn Hoa Bách Hợp. I call it “The Flower Garden”. So this is where I went during my last day in Hanoi.

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At the entrance of the garden. a local guy tried ripping me off asking 50 000 for a ticket. I asked him to give me the ticket first. As I expected, he didn’t have any; apparently, he wanted to earn cash on a dumb tourist :). So I entered the garden for free with confidence.

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Beautiful cherry blossom.

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Let there be music!

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A heart of flowers.

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Snowhite.

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Snow and blood.

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Children having fun.

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“I am the Queen of Vietnam!”

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Wow!

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Life is a colourful adventure.

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After a fascinating experience at the Flower Garden, I stopped by at the Tran Quoc Pagoda at the West Lake. As I expected, it was packed with tourists. Phu Tay Ho was much better.

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At the entrance of the pagoda.

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Communism and religion? 🙂

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Beautoful mini-altar.

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Riding a motorbike through the green tunnel at Phan Dinh Phung street is a special feeling.

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Ngoc Son Temple on the Hoan Kiem Lake.

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The turtle preserved in the glass box in was one of the four old turtles living in the Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s more than 2 metres long, and weighs 250 kg. For Vietnamese, the turtle in Hoan Kiem Lake is holy because it is linked with the legend of King Le Loi, who returned the magic sword to the turtle deity in Hoan Kiem Lake after defeating foreign invaders. This is why the lake is called “The Lake of the Sword Returned.”

For Vietnamese, the turtle in Hoan Kiem Lake is holy because it is linked with the legend of King Le Loi, who returned the magic sword to the turtle deity in Hoan Kiem Lake after defeating foreign invaders. This is why the lake is called “The Lake of the Sword Returned.”

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Game passion.

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The old and the new flags of Vietnam.

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The golden turtle is also depicted at the entrance of the Ngoc Son Temple. The temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao (who defeated the Mongols in the 13th century), La To (patron saint of physicians) and the scholar Van Xuong.

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Yes, life is about having fun!

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Another “touristc” atttraction: St. Joseph Cathedral.

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What’s so special about this grey buidling? Buddhist pagodas in Myanmar and Vietnam are much brighter.

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Vietnamese women are like angels: they don’t have wings, but they fly on motorbikes. Men must be cautious in Vietnam – it’s easy to fall in love.  

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One, two, three!

Later in the afternoon I was sitting at the lake and talking to Vietnamese students. During my whole stay in Hanoi the students approached me several times asking to practice English with them.

I would go out to the Lake later at night also to have a last feel of this wonderful city. For now, it’s time to say good-bye to incredible Vietnam.

Xin chao, Ba Vi

Ba Vi is a national park located around 60 km away from Hanoi. I went there during the 4th day of my stay in the capital.

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At the entrance of Ba Vi.

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Beautoful Ho Cua Lake.

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Old Vietnamese flags and the forest trail.

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Such a contrast with Hanoi: forest, hills, birds, and fresh air.

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Going deeper into the forest.

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A mini altar made out of stone.

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Natural tree gate.

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This is actually made of metal, but looks like from wood.

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Another breathtaking view of the lake. 

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Following the trail in the resort area.

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A restaurant seemed ike a fairy tale.

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My charming co-traveller from Hanoi.

Ba Vi is a great natural spot to get away from the noise and hustle-bustle of Hanoi. I  learned about it only thanks to a local person. Another great day!

Xin chao, Hanoi (day 3)

Today I continued exploring Hanoi with a motorbike. The highlights include the Phu Tay Ho Pagoda, Botanical Garden, Temple of Literature, and Peace Park.

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Phu Tay Ho is located at the West Lake (Ho Tay) in the centre of Hanoi.

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Locals fishing next to the pagoda.

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Very calm and peaceful in the morning.

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The pagoda and the tree.

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The fruit and the dragon welcome visitors.

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Inside the temple.

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Seafood :).

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Fruit garden in the temple area.

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What a cute architectural design!

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Spot for praying.

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This tree is gorgeous.

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People praying. It’s unbelievable, but I was the only foreigner at this serene place. I just sat next to the water and enjoyed the atmosphere. Why do tourists go to touristic places only?

In Saigon someone told me there is not much to do in Hanoi. I was also told I must try some local dish, the name of which I didn’t bother to remember.

This is the difference between tourism and travelling. You can do what TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet tell you, go on guided tours, and treat cuisine as the only experience worth of trying.

Isn’t this another face of consumerism and conformism?

Or you can raise your middle finger towards all reviews, and try out yourself: go to less known places, get lost in the city, use gestures to communicate with the locals.

When in Hanoi, do no go to Tran Quoc Pagoda. Go to Phu Tay Ho. Or go to both to feel the difference.

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After visiting the fantastic Phu Tay Ho, I took a walk in the Botanical Garden. I didn’t find it special, but it was nice to dive into a green oasis in the middle of Hanoi. And you can do sports there too :).

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Walking among the trees.

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Lake in the garden.

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Cute path.

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My next stop was the Temple of Literature. The man at the motor bike parking marked my bike with chalk :). 

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The Temple of Literature, or the Temple of Confucius, is the first and oldest university in Vietnam founded in 1076 (!). Chinese culture had a big influence on Vietnam (which doesn’t stop the Vietnamese from disliking the Chinese :)).

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The architecture has an old imperial style.

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Marvellous place despite an overwhelming number of tourists.

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Inside the Temple.

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Once I stepped away from a more crowded touristic zone, I was rewarded with a concert of traditional Vietnamese music.

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Having local cuisine for lunch.

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View to the lake on the way to the Peace Park.

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I found the Peace Park vast and empty. 

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Zero foreigners. That’s good!

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Perhaps the park was quite empty as it’s quite far. It took me about an hour by motorbike to get there. And on the way back I experienced an unforgettable Hanoi traffic jam :).

Xin chao, Hanoi (day 2)

Like another big city, Hanoi is full of contrasts. There are many sides to the capital of Vietnam, and each of them gives bright emotions.

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In the morning the popular Hoan Kiem Lake turns into a spot of physical activities. I was surprised to see old men working out with weights. And where did they get them? Brought from their homes?

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A strong mind in a strong body.

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Vietnamese women come to the lake with motorbikes, do a group dance with music, and then carry out with their daily lives.  

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These women deserve respect at least.

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Eye of the Tiger.

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The bridge at the lake is not so crowded in the morning.

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Vietnamese people love ice-cream.

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I tried the coconut one.

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Found a shop with interesting musical instruments.

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Jam session in progress.

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Houses in Hanoi are built “inside the yard”, i.e. perpendicular to streets. In this photo there are five houses. As far as I know, this is done to minimize the cost of the real estate. 

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It never hurts stop for an exercise.

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Hanoi Opera House.

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An island of green.

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There are several big lakes in Hanoi. These are great sports for a promenade.

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I loved getting lost on a motorbike in Hanoi. This time I ended up in a cool rusty bridge across the Red River. This is the Long Bien bridge built by the French in 1902. It was never renovated since then. Local students told me it is unsafe to drive there.

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The bridge is for motorbikes only.

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View of the Red River. Chuong Duong Bridge can be seen ahead – I rode across it another day. 

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Surprisngly, I found out a party district in the middle of the Old Town. I was taken there by a local person. It felt even more crowded and crazy than in Saigon!

Cảm ơn, Hanoi!

Xin chao, Hanoi (day 1)

I arrived in Hanoi early morning on the 1st of January. I fell in love with the city immediately for its spirit, traffic jams (better than in Saigon), and the people.

As always, the photos only reflect the places and the people. The amazing experiences and encounters I had in Hanoi remain in my heart.

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Morning at the Hoam Kiem Lake (“Lake of the Restored Sword”): The Huc Bridge.

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People are enjoying the 1st day of 2017.  

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Vietnamese blues trio.

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Turtle Tower.

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“2017” laid out with flowers.

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Interesting design.

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Women selling oranges …

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… and other fruit.

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Vietnam Military History Museum.

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Lenin Park.

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Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

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Grand plaza where Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence from France & where his body now lies.

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Mausoleum guards.

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Compared to Saigon the streets in downtown look empty!

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Rain in the city.

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“Animlas at the Hoam Kiem Lake. The lake is my favourite spot in Hanoi.

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So many balloons – she can fly away! 

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The Notes Cafe. Well-advertised on Trip Advisor, but didn’t appeal to me. During the trip both in Myanmar and Vietnam I realized a lot of stuff on Tripadvisor is for tourists, consumerists and conformists, not travellers. And this is how it should be. Travellers must explore and discover themselves.

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A typical cafe in the Old Town. I absolutely loved hot Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk! 

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“Portable” (on the truck) super tasty coffee and pancakes at the lake. That reminded me of the “Chef” movie. 

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There were several street concerts on the night of the 1st of January.

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The bridge at night.

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People are having fun jumping across the moving sticks :).

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And this is tug-of-war, where I took my part :).

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Fantastic live concert with superb singers and musicians. The songs were both in English and Vietnamese.

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At the night market.

My verdict about Hanoi: WONDERFUL.