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.

Xin chao, Saigon: War Remnants Museum

I never really liked museums. The War Remnants Museum in Saigon had changed my attitude. It contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists. Above all, the museum teaches like nothing else that life and peace are too precious to be wasted in complaints about trifles.

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Look like school kids at the museum entrance.

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You need to stick this onto your shirt after buying the ticket.

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Open-air exhibition.

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The impression is that the wall and the ground are one road.

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This room contains stories of the disabled who had managed to overcome their difficutlies.

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The power of the disabled. As I was looking at this man without arms and legs, two thoughts came to my mind. First: thank you, all gods and powers, for giving me health! Second, if this had happened to me, would I have kept the same dignity and positive attitude? I really don’t know …

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Flower power.

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American soldiers refusing to join the army as a sign of protest against the US aggression in Vietnam.

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Support of nations across the world.

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The role of Calcutta.

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Drawing for peace.

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Academic solidarity.

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Another room portrays the awful effects of Agent Orange.

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It’s hard not to start crying.

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Agent Orange had also affected other nations.

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A boy without arms learning to draw.

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A daughter of an American soldier exposed to Agent Orange.

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Mother with a blind daughter.

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Contributors to the exhibition.

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How the exhibition was created.

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The drawings of Saigon’s school kids to promote peace.

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Let there be peace and friendship among nations.

Xin chao, Saigon (day 3)

Saigon during the day is as active and amazing as at night.

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Went out to a local park early in the morning. Loud Vietnamese disco! People doing all sorts of physical activities. 

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A strong mind in a strong body.

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Motobikes are everywhere in the park also! In Vietnam there are separate parking areas for motorbikes.

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Local public transport.

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And how about this vehicle? 🙂

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Phu Dong Thien Vuong (Heavenly King of Phu Dong), one of the “Four Immortals” in Vietnamese history.

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 Bitexco Financial Tower – the highest building in Saigon.

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Flowers around the Independence Palace area. Some impatient motorists use the pavement! 

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A cute park next to the Independence Palace. 

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Independence Palace, also known as Reunification Palace.

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Notre Dame Cathedral.

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What a gorgeous building of the Central Post Office! 

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Inside the post office. The portrait of the famous leader Ho Cho Minh can’t be missed. 

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Time to restore energy with a banh mi and Vietnamese coffee.

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A monument for Vietnamese maritime hero Tran Hung Dao.

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At the Saigon river.

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Benh Thanh Market during the day.

Xin chao, Saigon (day 2)

Actually, night 2. I arrived back in Saigon from Phan Thiet after 5 pm. So seeing the city at night again.

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Life is sparkling at night in District 1.

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City hall at night.

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The main square is full of lights, people, and music.

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These arcs are everywhere along the main roads.

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2017 is the year of the rooster.

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Thetr is s holiday atmosphere in the air. New Year is approaching!

Tomorrow I can finally see Saigon during the day.