Vietnam, Hanoi – Temple of Literature
The very first day in Asia went very quickly, and in the evening we moved to a cozy family hotel. The environment is friendly, staff gives advice with a smile, they recommend you meals, trips, help with transportation or you can buy the fruit you want. At least first, before you get by, you will certainly appreciate the help.
We are waiting one more day in the metropolis before heading north to Lao Cai and Sapa village. In the morning we will sleep longer and then go for a taxi. We are smarter and we have only small banknotes in our wallet. At the reception we will learn the estimated cost of transportation. And one more thing we got thanks to a willing staff, a local sim card. If you stay in the country and expect to use the Internet, I advise you to buy a local sim card as soon as possible. Prices are very low and the effect is excellent. In case of intensive use of the phone, I usually have a card for about CZK 500, the less active callers will do with 300 CZK.
The weather is ideal today and we head to the Temple of Literature - Van Mieu. The most courageous of you can try xe om aka a motorized taxi. Xe om in translation means
hugging. So you catch the motorbike and with the driver he will take you to the destination. When I first sat on a motorcycle in Hanoi, my driver told me, that I can't worry otherwise we will fall. This will tell you. Motorbikes swing one next to each other, sometimes even in the opposite direction. Some carry one passenger, others even 4, some are loads more than the bike itself, but all are in motion. Until today I can not understand how girls on motorbikes can sit in tight skirts and have high heel boots on their feet. My friends like to say that what the Vietnamese is doing on a motorbike, we would not fit into the car.
The Temple of Literature has until recently been the only quiet island in the Hanoi Sea motorcycle. It is the campus of the very first university in the country. The entire compound is surrounded by a high wall that hides it from the noise in the surrounding streets from getting in. The temple was dedicated to the prominent Chinese philosopher Confucius. It was established in the 11th century, even though the exact date of its origin is still questionable. There are several courtyards, pagodas, shrines, and a large number of stone steles. In the past, the names of successful students who have passed the final examinations were written there.
The whole area is widely visited by both tourists and locals. Students often go here before doing exams and, of course, after graduation. On such ocassions boys and girls invite friends or family and go to the temple to pay their respects.
Van Mieu is really large, you have to spend at least two hours on the tour, you will not regret it. Just at the time of the New Year celebrations be sure to reconsider your intention to visit this places for it may be really busy.
I think we've visited some of the most interesting places in Hanoi together. Just repeat what you should not miss out on: Hoan Kiem Lake, The Lake of the Returned Sword, Nephrite Mountain Temple, Chua Tran Quoc which is the oldest pagoda by the Western Lake, the One Pillar pagoda at Ba Dinh Square, and the Van Mieu Literature Temple. You can buy at Dong Xuang Market. Last but not least, it is a duty stop in Bia Hoi corner - a famous place in the Old Quarter, where you can certainly enjoy and taste the draft beer for the price of a few cents.
We are now about to return to the hotel and move north by night train. We will tell you about this part of our journey next time.
GPS: 21°01'49.9"N 105°50'11.7"E
Text and photos: Magdaléna Radostová
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In the evening we arrive at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). We are already busy only to lodge for a quick dinner in the busy streets of this largest Vietnamese city and sleep. The next day a very exciting war trip is waiting for us - we go to the Cu Chi tunnels.
After a tough night-train trip, we arrive early in the morning to Da Nang City, where we do not stay very much. First we head to perhaps the most beautiful Vietnamese city - the Hoi An lantern, from which we go for a trip to the Marble Mountains, Vietnamese Ngũ Hành Sơn.
Omnipresent honking, grandmas pulling bikes with flowers, Vietnamese sitting on small chairs, food, bikes, wires, bikes, French cafes, bikes with food, bikes with chairs, bike transporting part of another bike… Welcome to Hanoi! It is a city crazy beyond believe. You either love it or you hate it eternally.
Da Nang (a city almost in the geographic center of Vietnam) is largely unknown. Which is unfortunate. An average tourist usually passes by there in a taxi on his way from the airport to his favorite Hoi An hotel…. I spent three weeks in Da Nang. And the city got on the list of my favorite places in Southeast Asia (right next to Chiang Mai). In Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson called the old road to Hue as the “abandoned fragment of perfection.” I absolutely agree.
Upon an hour of waiting for a visa I was free to explore the capital of the country I really looked forward to exploring. First of all, I somehow let a cab driver to make a 300 crown rip off. Sometimes things like this happen. But honestly – this happens in Prague as well. Aboard the airplane I could see streets where millions of bikes stream in all directions. And “down” here the traffic is even more crazy. If I compare Ho Chi Minh city to Bangkok, a city of comparable size, in the former there are much less traffic jams. One must add that there is no subway, or rail that would go above the ground. It seems that high taxes on car is working.
Someone loves it. Someone swears to not to come again. There is nothing in between. I am with the first group. From the first day on in Saigon, a hectic city, and I turned into a side street. We are about to introduce you to a new series where we tell you about interesting places in the city and the country. First of all, let’s talk some important facts about the country.
We reached Hanoi (Hà Nội in Vietnamese) by train, again. Friends had been waiting for us at the train station already. Hospitable as they were they took us on their bikes to their place. Founded in the 11th century, Hanoi’s original name was Thăng Long – Soaring Dragon. The legend says the emperor saw a dragon soaring at this place so he founded the city there.
Nha Trang is practically the most famous tourist resort in Vietnam, not so much for some landmarks, this coastal city of Khanh Hoa province is famous for its seven kilometers long sandy beach with adjacent islands. The city of approximately 392,000 inhabitants and this number is growing steadily.
Immediately after arriving at Sa Pa, stay and do not waste your time. With clear visibility, the best choice is to arrange a lift to Phan Xi Pang. It is the longest cableway in the world that uses a three-lane system. Its length is about 6 km and was opened in 2016. It is still being built here. True, for tourists who enjoy the virgin nature with a mountain cottage, it probably will not. Several pagodas, sanctuaries, even a train have been built on top, which will take you to the highest point. The prospects are really good, and the landscape here is on your palm.
There are many places how to travel in the country. I have prepared for you a small summary with some recommendations.
Upon our arrival and first impressions of Vietnam, we take a tour of Hanoi. The guide first takes us to Ba Dinh Square, which is famous especially for Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Upon we explore Hanoi a bit we planned to see other places which are must see in the capital. The first one was the Ho Chi Minh Museum (Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh).
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is often regarded economic heart of Vietnam. It is not as hold as Hanoi (Hà Nội) but still it has some magic.
Every time I have the feeling I know something more about something I come to realization which tells me the opposite. I spent one year of studying and travelling in China. Bit arrogantly I had felt Asia couldn’t surprise me much more. Fortunately, I hadn’t boarded a plane to the Czech Republic, instead I boarded a plane to Vietnam.
I have always longed to see a large desert with sand dunes. However, neither in Europe nor in Southeast Asia (the places where I spend most of my time) is one. Once I first saw pictures of Mui Ne, Vietnam I knew for sure that I want to go there. Okay, it is not a desert per se but sand dunes there are huge.
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