Sketches of ’Nam
Travel websites describe Vietnam as everything from a country with a war-laden past to quiet towns and a rich culture. Still, you really don’t know what to expect when travelling to this part of the world (Vietnam).Updated: May 05, 2010 01:28 IST
The quaint Old Quarter
We stayed at Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. On the first day, we took a walk around the Old Quarter. Although it was only 6 am, the streets were bustling. There were people on two wheelers; young girls with conical straw hats on bicycles; middle-aged drivers pushing their ‘cyclos’ (rickshaws) and vendors carrying everything from fruits to rice and utensils in baskets hanging from their shoulders.
The morning market of the Old Quarter had three aisles of vendors who sold vegetables, fish, snakes and meat. Local restaurants and food stalls bought their raw ingredients from here. Already, customers with cloth bags stood there, haggling for their money’s worth. The Old Quarter ended at the main street that encircled the Hoan Keim Lake, famous for the legendary golden turtle. Joggers sprinted past the lake, and through the morning mist, you could see the Turtle Tower right in the middle of the lake.
Then, it was time to drive to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO world heritage sight with thousands of limestone isles. We drove past the countryside of lush paddy fields. In the bay, we waded through the serene waters in a quaint Chinese junk boat, passed floating fishing villages, boats selling fruits, and watched the limestone islets of various shapes and sizes in wonder.