We had read really good reviews about the Reunification Park, also known as the Lenin Park, here in Hanoi. "A place to definitely visit with children", was what grabbed our attention the most. It is only a short walking distance from our apartment, so we headed over today to check it out. There is a minimal charge for both children and adults to enter the park (it comes out to about $.50 total). Once inside, we were really excited to look around and play. Sadly, our excitement didn't last very long once we saw the state of the playgrounds and the rides. To be honest I was relieved that the rides didn't operate until 5PM because they didn't look cared for at all.
I was really sad to see the awful condition the playgrounds were in because they are such a great part of childhood and a place where we have met some great people during our travels. Once upon a time this must have been an awesome playground, but now the equipment is in awful shape, with holes in slides and rotten wooden "support" rods that made me question whether or not it was a good idea for the kids to play on them.
Around the playground, there are a few pieces of exercise equipment that are meant to be used by adults, which were actually in good condition. We have seen these in various parks here and we have seen many adults actually using them. In fact there were more adults at the playground than children! I guess exercise equipment in the park is not a bad idea since the park air is much fresher and you are surrounded by a lot of trees and greenery. Our kids had fun playing on them for a very short while (they are really not meant for kids). We ended up not spending very much time on or around the playgrounds and decided to continue on and see the rest of the park.
The landscaping in the park is not bad, and there are definitely a lot of nice flower gardens. There was also a large open area where the kids ran around and played tag for a while. There is also a big lake where on one side you can rent paddle boats, but we never made it all the way there. We did see a cute and colorful train that I would have been happy to go on if it was running. The train takes you around a section of the park.
Cho Hom Market
There is an amazing market on Pho Hang Bai (Hang Bai Street) that is full of ...everything! The entrance is a bit dark and you have to make a few small turns to actually end up inside the market, but once you are there it is amazing.
It is full of tiny clothing and accessory shops along with a large area full of fruits and vegetables. We had no idea what to expect when we stepped inside, but I am glad we decided to go and explore this amazing place.
The tiny clothing shops, or should I stay stalls, are packed to the brim with different things. I managed to haggle and get a pair of Lands End legging pants for $4. My haggling to get Hannah a new Hello Kitty leggings was not as successful, so I did not buy it. It is a really fun experience to check out the market, but like everywhere else in Hanoi, you better watch out for the motorcycles. Yes they even come into the market with them!!
You can also head on upstairs, where you find tons...and I mean tons and tons...of fabric! There are so many different stalls full of different kinds and qualities of fabric. There is barely any room to get around, but it sure is colorful and beautiful up there.
The ladies that sit outside the stalls are very friendly. One of them picked up Hannah and said, "Can I be your mommy?" and Hannah said, "No!". Then she pointed to me and said, "You are my mommy". Poor Hannah, she really doesn't enjoy being grabbed and picked up by strangers, but they are very kind and mean no harm at all.
Back downstairs and out of this market, you will find another market that is mainly focused on vegetables, meat, and seafood. Here the motorcycles just drive by and grab what they need from the stall keepers. Most of them don't even get off their motorcycles!!
The seafood section features live seafood! The fish and the shrimp are all alive in the water! I believe the squids were not. The crabs are also nicely tied and stacked for customers who are in a hurry!
What an experience! We did not buy anything else asides from my leggings. There are so many things around that the whole thing was a bit dizzying, and it is such a process to try bargaining prices down. Perhaps in our future visits we will look around some more and buy a few things, now that we know the lay of the land!
In the evening, we headed out towards the Old Quarter to pick up Hannah's Zelda Costume. We were so surprised to see bride after bride after bride near the Tràng Tiền Plaza and Hoàn Kiếm Lake. Tràng Tiền Plaza is a very fancy shopping mall that is brand new, and still not fully completed inside. It has all the fancy stores like Louis Vuitton, Burberry, etc. Kian has named this place the "Royal Mall" because it really is very pretty with golden doors and all.
Apparently, when the weather is nice, brides and grooms from villages around Hanoi drive into the city for their photo sessions. They all looked so adorable and happy. I do wish we could have seen more brides in the traditional Vietnamese outfit, but regardless it was a happy sight and something we have never seen before! So many brides sharing more or less the same spotlight!
Hoàn Kiếm Lake & Ngoc Son Temple
On our way to the Old Quarter, we also enjoyed the beautiful Tortoise Tower and the Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mountain), this time without any mist and rain in the air.
Alright! If you read our last post, I know you have been waiting for this! Ta da! There is little miss Hannah in her Zelda costume. Can you see the golden Triforce (the three golden triangles)? She was so happy to see her fancy, pink Zelda dress. After seeing those girls yesterday at the temple in their Vietnamese outfits, I asked the tailor if she could make me one. She gave me a good price, and used the Vietnamese silk which is really light. This traditional outfit is called Ao Dai (the D is pronounced like Z). Don't worry, we didn't forget daddy-o. He ordered himself a nice suit, and we all got a nice family discount (his suit is even being sent home to the US for free).
Seriously, if you end up in Vietnam, you have to go visit Ha!
If you visit Ha's shop, she will give you a lot more than just the outfits, she also provides a lot of tips on the best places to eat or where to get the better and cheaper fruits!
She told us about a small, hole in the wall place that has amazing pho and that is only open for breakfast and dinner. She said the place should be empty of tourists and that they don't over charge tourists that do end up there.
We made our way based on her instructions and got there quickly. She was right, we were the only non Vietnamese people there the entire time. She was also right that the pho is delicious and that they give you a lot of beef. Pho in Vietnam is so delicious and this broth base was definitely our favorite. 1 bowl of pho cost just over a $1. Mmm Mmm good!
Exercise in the Park
On our way home, we saw a few group of ladies exercising in the park. They were having such fun and were really into their workout. It was sort of a mix between Zumba and Jazzercize or maybe just plain old aerobics with music. I was so tempted to join in! Wouldn't you be?
This made me think again about how similar we all are and about how small the world is. Everywhere we have been we have seen that awkwardness in adolescents, we have seen a love for health and fitness, we have seen kindness towards children, and respect for elders. At the end of the day we are all human and we are all more similar than we care to admit.
And with that though, I shall end this lengthy post!
Tomorrow, early morning, we are off to Halong Bay! Can't wait....