Money and Temples in Hanoi

< travels >

Aug 3, Evening, in a cafe

Temples are all Chinese down to the writing down to the writing. Apparently the Vietnamese used to use Chinese as their written language. Sort of like the Japanese I guess, it came with Buddhism. Which is why the temples still have Chinese character (both written and style) all over it. Their current alphabet was invented by a Jesuit in the 1700's.

Some are still open as temples, tourist attractions minus the monks, and plus a minute entry fee. Others are have now become people's homes and shops. quite odd to see a temple gate crammed full of pots and pans.

I amused myself by trying to read the Chinese in the temple (and generally failed). When I got out I had to insist with a gathering crowd that I only wanted one set of postcards, no t-shirts, books nor buttons. I think the other hagglers were disappointed, though the boys were pleased, especially when they got away with a US$0.50 cents tip. I'd talked them down from $3.00 to $1.50 with much sighing on their part, but they didn't have the right change in Dong.

Other kids just beg, they cluster mostly around the lake in the center of Hanoi (there are three lakes in all, the largest is where I'm at right now). They tug at your elbows. There was a boy and a girl no older than eight last night, as Chris and I walked around the lake. The girl was younger and a little less interested; "me no mama, no papa" turned into a song almost. They followed until we passed 4 other richer looking foreigners. Others just rub their bellies. Can't avoid feeling bad.

Finally realized that Hanoi is an hour behind Hong Kong. It seems to make more sense if the hour was one ahead though.

Went to go to mass, but was early and hung out with what I would guess are more "urchins." They offered me a cigarette, and I smoked it, giving them one from my "bribe-let's be friend" packs in return (I'm sure American cigarette makers would love me). They played a little soccer skill game, monkey in the middle of sorts, four boys standing on the corners of a square, one in the middle trying to intercept their passes. A bad pass or a touch pass and they monkey would switch places with the last person to touch it.

But mass I never got to. It started to late I think. Streams of people came in about 5:30- possibly for catechism- the Church was still empty or almost when I checked. The boys didn't care much for it, they yelled into the door a couple times, obviously meaning to be disruptive. They did help an old lady across the square though.

It is beautiful though, lots of great stain glass. A bit run down perhaps, especially on the outside, but nothing to spoil it. I decided not to wait for mass, I figure I would lose interest pretty quickly in Vietnamese.

Today I got up fairly late, went for breakfast: OJ and slow brewed coffee. No bikes left at the nearby rental place, so I just walked aimlessly for a couple of hours. My feet are beat, brain a little overheated with so many new sights.

Saw lots of cats today; one lay out cold, sprawled among its owner's goods, front paws hugging a bag of sugar.

Ended up here, not far from home the Esperen Hotel, number something or other. There's a little Lego shop across from here. Seems very odd.

I feel odd. especially when I walked through a market, out of place and knowing I don't belong, but wanting to be accepted. The market has a string of stalls with a makeshift roof, I had to stoop as I walked down the aisle, feeling quite like the alien.

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