Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hanoi--wish I had had another day here!

We flew from Vientiane to Hanoi, and because we were going to spent a total of at least 3 nights at our hotel (Hotel Charming II), they picked us up at the airport and brought us to the hotel.  We were delighted to have the ride, and I was feeling worse, in spite of the antibiotics I had taken.

Vietnam is over 1200 miles long and the weather in Hanoi was much more temperate then where we had been.  While we were there, the temperature was in the low 70s with not much change at night.  It also drizzled most of the time we were there.  The city was extremely clean, with its own charm,  and very busy, with motorcycles everyone.  The old city center was quite dense and frenetically busy.  One has to be extremely careful when crossing the streets as the motorcycles do NOT stop for pedestrians.

 The hotel is located in the old part of Hanoi and was really a lovely place.  It is located in the old section of Hanoi, with street names changing on each block.  The hotel, like most of the buildings in the old quarter and in many other parts of Hanoi are very very skinny.

Examples of skinny buildings

  The hotel has 3 rooms per floor, an inner one and back one with a small window and a front one with window and balcony.  We spent the first night in the inner one and decided to splurge when returning and get the balcony.  You can tell how lovely and inviting the rooms were. 

Desk with computer and Internet, of course, and fresh flowers
Very nice beds with flower petals strewn on the cover
Rose on bed and personal note for International Women's Day--so nice!

Larger room with balcony door and elephant towels on bed--so cute!

The hotel provided the best map we ever got on the trip of the local area, and it was on very heavy paper so it lasted well.

Back of the map lists places of interest to see--it really was helpful
But the best part of the hotel was the amazing, caring staff.  They were very solicitus.  For example:  When I was sick and had to cut my walk short, they asked how they could help, and went to a local shop to buy me Pho as I was too weak to walk there.

We walked 2+ blocks to the Dong Xuan  (wholesale) Market.  It was a huge building with rows and rows of sellers, bustling with people.

Outside huge wholesale market
A stand of small items

Material and more material
View from 2nd floor staircase looking down
 These cloth face masks were sold in many places.  I bought the one below for a bit under $1.25.  I bought another with flowers on it for about $1.  I wish I had bought more as they can be used a washed.  They are used by many of the motorcyclists in town.

Motorcycles are the main form of transportation and we often saw two to five people on them!  When 4 or 5 were on them, several were children.   It was still the rainy season and it drizzled most of the day, soaking my windbreaker! 

We walked over to (West) Lake, the largest lake inside the city.  The promenade was very nice and we stopped for a lunch of Pho.
Pho for lunch

Along promenade
View of lake from promenade
Loved this tree!
There were plenty of ATMs near the lake but fewer by our hotel in the old city.

 A less common photo of a couple holding hands near the lake.
View of lake through hazy drizzle
What great roots!

Note globe to the right with Vietnam in the center.  We do the same thing with our maps and put our country in the middle but not normally is such proportion.
There was a Buddhist altar in our hotel as well as in several restaurants.  What was different about these were they were more similar to Chinese looking Buddhas than the ones we saw in Laos and Cambodia.

When we returned from Sapa, Marcy and I went to the Museum of Ethnology, an absolutely amazing, modern place.  Here is its website.
The museum is divided in a number of parts including:
1)  History and culture of the various ethnic groups in Vietnam
2)  Houses of different groups, brought to the museum and placed outside
3)  A special exhibit entitled "As We Grow Up"
The layout of the museum, inside and outside


Layout inside first floor of the museum
 A ritual pole of the Co is in the center of the entry way.  It was originally over 40 feet high, but too tall for the lobby, so the lower part is on display behind and to the left of the photo below.
It is the pole that is the center of the Co people thanksgiving festival.  A "ritual" buffalo is tied to the pole -- a spiritual tree which connects the people to the spiritual world during the festival.  It is an extremely important object for the Co people.

In 2009, about 86,000,000 people lived in Vietnam, with 54 ethnic groups, the Viet being the main one and 53 minority groups.   Each ethnic group is distinct but does share some traditions with other groups.  They have been influenced by China, India, and Southeast Asia.  Also western cultural factors have been incorporated in some of the traditions in recent years.

Most of the groups grow rice--either wet or swidden agriculture--together with raising chickens, collecting, hunting and fishing.  They also make handicrafts and are involved in some commerce.  The village has been the center of social life for centuries.

Austronesians live in Vietnam and Cambodia but most live in Indonesia, the Philippines, and other surrounding areas.  In Vietnam five ethnic groups speak Austronesian languages.

90,000,000 people in SE Asia speak Tai-Kadai languages.  8 ethnic groups in Vietnam speak this language base.  These people originated in China but centuries ago migrated southward and settled as far away as India.

Austroasiatics is a language family with about 50 ethnic groups and 100,000,000 people throughout Asia.  Some came together to form nations such as Vietnam and Cambodia.  Most SE Asians descent from Austroasiatic speakers.  This is the largest language family in Vietnam and includes Viet--Moung and Mon--Khmer peoplew with 25 ethnic groups throughout the country.

The Miao-Yao (also called Hmong--Mien) ethno-linguistic family has about 10,000,000 people living in Vietnam, China, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). This group migrated from southern China over time (although the majority still live in China) and local groups vary in customs and clothing.  In Vietnam there are 3 ethnic groups in this family.

The Sino-Tibetan language family is the most widely distributed one in Asia.  Han is the dominate language in China.   The Tibeto-Burmese migrated from the Himalays to the south at different times, especially after the 18th century.  In Vietnam there are three Han speaking people and 6 Tibet-Burman groups.

The map below shows the diversity of languages throughout Vietnam.

 The Viet (or Kinh people) make up 86% of the Vietnamese population.  They live throughout the country, mainly in the deltas, midlands, and coastal areas.   Village was the basis of life with each having its own communal house honoring the village's spirit.  It also has a Buddhist pagoda and other temples.   Urbanization started early, with the people adapted Chinese, Indian, and cultural influences, while keeping their own language and cultural ID.  The Chinese and demotic writing systems and the modern quoc ngu alphabet (which uses English letters but not the pronunciation!) are very important.

A load on a bike of a businessman
 For centuries, the village of Chuong has been famous for its conical hats.  Raw materials for making the hats are bought in the hill areas, including the sheafs of bamboo shoots, fishtail palm, and palm leaves.   

The Art of water puppetry was created around the tenth century.  Puppets are carved from light-weight, durable wood and then painted.  They portray lively, numourous characters.  The performing stage is a roofed manipulation room, built on the water surface and conceceals the puppeteers, who stand in the water.  The characters perform daily life including agricultury, fishing, catching frogs, buffalo fighting, dragon and lion dancers, etc.  Music and songs accompany the performances.  Firecrackers often explode around the water.
Examples of water puppets
There were  a variety of exhibits on daily life and traditions.  For example,cChewing betel and blackening teeth has been around for a long time.  Ancient Viet people invited their guests to chew betel before a conversation.  It was used in many rituals including a marriage proposal.  It is used less nowadays but still is involved in rituals.  There were also exhibits of children's traditional games, and lots of types of art including woodblock pictures,carving and laquer work.

We were astounded to see the exhibit "As We Grow Up," for teens and families explaining issues of puberty, sexuality, traditional customs, talking with parents, etc.    The Ministry of Education and Training of Vietnam, the UN in Viet Nam, UNESCO in collaboration with this museum, and the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union worked worked with many schools, individuals and other groups to create this exhibit.  15 university students from Hanoi contributed ideas/quotes to the exhibit.  I would not think something so direct would be in museums in the US today.

Even Facebook was used to illustrate points
"Condom Armour"
We went outside, saw a special cafe, and then entered a number of the houses of different ethnic groups.  The houses were all original, brought from villages by people from the villages and reassembled by the same people.

The cafe was a special project to teach disadvantaged youth how to work in a restaurant.  We saw and ate at a branch in Sapa also.

We went into several of the outdoor homes that were transferred to this museum, saw others from the outside,  and were fascinated by the houses and the care taken to bring and preserve them for national history.

The Viet house below originally belonged to a wealthy family built in 1906 in the Tho Xuan area.  The house was expanded in 1933 and housed multi-generations.

A fascinating display of water puppets and a history of them was inside this house.

Pieces of ancient animal water puppets
Hai Duong province historically has been a center for the art of puppetry.  Since 1993, the water puppet troupe in the area has gradually been revival and a training workshop has brought young puppeteers into the fold.  Now the new troupe has 21 puppeteers from ages 38 to 77.

Legend says that puppetry has existed in Dong Cac since the 14th century.  In 1929, a puppetry troupe was officially set up.  A fire in 1936 destroyed almost all of the puppets, but many more were made after 1949.  The Dong puppets are smaller than those of the first group mentioned but "more beautifully crafted and painted" with a specialized mechanism.

Puppets are made today and new plays have been written.  Puppets are made from old ficus trees.  It is a light wood which floats easily, has few knots, and does not easily break.  Traditional waterproof pain is used to cover the puppet.  Hong Phong puppets usually highlight black, green, pink and yellow.

There was also a water puppet theater in the outside area.  We heard that performance were amazing.

Bahnar Communal House, front view

Side View
Ede House brought from southern Vietnam

Columns in an Ede house
 Columns of traditional Ede long houses have intricate sculptures to make the house nicer looking and to display the owner's wealth and social position.  Each is topped with a carving of a cooking pot, one of the family's most trasured possessions.   The Ede society is matrilineal.   
Large tomb house
 The above house was built in 1998 by 5 Jarap Arap men from the Mrong Ngo village in the Gia Lai province of Vietnam.    30 people can be buried a tomb house like this, and it is for the dead in afterlife.  Statues of naked and pregnant people symbolize fertility and birth.  Broken dishes and similar necessities are put inside the house for the dead in the other world.  After a special ritual, the house is allowed to fall into disrepair and decay.
Cotu Tomb

The Cotu Tomb is for the second funeral for wealthy people in the Cotu society. The coffin is dug up for a second ceremony. Carvings of water buffalo heads, iguanas, tring birds, fern leaves, atut leaves or sadly sitting figures are common decorations in Cotu tombs. Each tomb can contain 4 or 5 bodies from within a family. 

The Hmong house below was built in 1984 in De Cho Cha A village in Yen Bai province in northern Vietnam a a Flower Hmong family.  When the museum bought the house, seven Flower Hmong villages came to reconstruct it on the useum grounds.  It took six days.   It is made of "pomu" wood, a tree common to the area.  The roof is covered with 600 large shingles, some of which can be moved so the women who weave inside the house can see.  The house was built traditionally with axes, chisels, and knives.


I didn't have time to go to the Museum of Women before my flight but Marcy later went and said it was astounding.  It was rated #3 by Trip Advisor of places to see in Hanoi. Unfortunately, the website for the museum in English is not available.  I could only access it in Vietnamese.

I flew home that evening and Marcy had one more day, so below is our fairwell picture, taken by staff at the Hotel Charming II.  I finally had a chance to wear the skirt!  (I do like wearing skirts on flights.)  It was the end of a great trip.  I owe a lot to Marcy for suggesting it as I never would have considered going if it were not for her.

There is still one more blog  to come about our experiences in Sapa.