Curse you jet lag! We did manage to get ourselves out of the house a bit earlier today, and decided to take a walk to the Temple of Literature, which is just about a mile from our house. We took random roads and enjoyed the sights, while making sure to stay out of the path of motorcycles that come in every direction :) I am not sure if it has something to do with the fact that I grew up in a big city (Tehran) for 14 years, or that I worked in a big city (New York City) for 10+ years, but the motorcycles and the crazy traffic doesn't really phase me. All that combined with the fact that the motorcycles here don't have really high speed here like they did in Barcelona, and they are quite well trained in maneuvering around pedestrians in traffic.
Since we left the house shortly after 2 PM, by the time we were close to the Temple of Literature we were all starving. We wanted to try something authentic and local, but many places were already closed. We must stop thinking that we are still in Spain where eating lunch at 2 or 3 PM was completely acceptable.
Vietnamese Hot Pot
We ended up picking a random hole-in-the-wall type place that are popular with the locals and ordered a chicken and mushroom hot pot. We sat outside on the plastic benches by the plastic tables. This is what Al Fresco eating is like in Vietnam, it is how all the locals do it at all the traditional restaurants.
Our food was prepared right on the sidewalk, where two girls worked on getting the broth ready, along with the needed ingredients. We didn't realize that we were going to get a WHOLE chicken (head and all)!
The food was good, not as delicious as Pho and a lot more work, but it was definitely a fun experience. Unfortunately it took way longer than we meant to spend on eating lunch!
Văn Miếu - Temple of Literature
We arrived at the Temple of Literature and were surprised to see so many young girls and boys dressed up. The girls looked beautiful in their traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai. I asked one of the girls why everyone was dressed up and was told that it was their graduation. :)
They were all so incredibly sweet and happy and they all wanted a picture with Kian and/or Hannah. If I haven't mentioned this yet, it is definitely overdue: Vietnamese people are very kind, regardless of their age or status. Whoever we have encountered thus far has been so friendly and nice, especially towards kids.
We loved walking through the beautiful gardens on our way to the Temple. Since we were visiting around closing time, we didn't run into too many tourists. I am glad we got held up with the hot pot or we probably would have arrived during the graduation ceremony!
This was the first Temple we have ever visited. It was really quite amazing. I do wish we had a guide or someone knowledgeable to give us more information about what we were looking at, because asides from reading the small pamphlet and seeing the statue of Confucius and his best disciples, I am not sure what anything else in the temple represents. I will have to keep my questions regarding temples for when I see our friend and ex-au pair in Thailand.
We left the temple just as it was about to close. The guard actually told us to pick up speed and head out the door, but in the nicest way possible. He even collected some delicious smelling flower petals that had fallen from the tree to the ground and gave them to me and another lady that was in front of us :)
We wanted to take a cab back to the Old Quarter, but the first taxi we asked said no and drove away. A guy nearby heard our request and asked if we would be willing to go with his cycle rickshaw instead. We said, "Sure, why not!". The cycle rickshaws in Vietnam have the bicycle behind the carriage, so the passengers sit in the front and your "driver" pedals in the back. These guys really know what they are doing, so there is no reason to be afraid, even with all the crazy motorcycle traffic, and even when going against incoming traffic!
Why don't you come along and take a ride with us on a cycle rickshaw in Hanoi? We hope you enjoy the ride. ;)
Ha, The amazing Tailor!
We arrived in the Old Quarter quickly and safely and stepped into Ha's shop. Ha is the lady we met last night, when we visited Old Quarter for the first time. Kian, as you might know, from his first book, loves Link from the Nintendo game Zelda. He has been trying to design his own Link costume out of paper, and had been thinking about how to improve the last one he made, when I decided to put him out of his misery and take advantage of the fact that we are in South East Asia, where people rave about tailors and custom made clothing.
Enter Ha... An amazing and creative tailor in Hanoi, Vietnam that we happened to find by chance.
After we told her what we want, she said no problem, and that she promises to do everything as Kian described. She also really loved Kian and said, "I know him inside. I know if I do something wrong he will be so upset. I know him inside. I can tell that he is smart and he knows what he really wants. You should encourage and support him."
Much to Kian's dismay, we had to leave his Link toy behind for 1 night as her model. She told us to return at 6PM the next day to pick up Link but that the costume wouldn't be ready for 2 days.
So we went to the Old Quarter only to pick up Link, and were all really surprised when Ha said that Kian's costume was completed!
Kian was so excited and so happy with how everything turned out (Note: Kian's costume is red on purpose, in the game he plays, Link starts off with the green suit, then upgrades to a blue suit, and finally to the red suit which is the most powerful one, and that's the one Kian wanted).
Everything you see Kian wearing in the pictures above (except for his socks), were made by Ha and her workers. We also ordered Hannah a Zelda costume, because Link needs his Zelda :). That costume will be ready tomorrow, stay tuned!
Expect to see Kian in this outfit in many future pictures, he really really loves it and it is very comfortable!