Wednesday, 3 February 2010
The Temple of Literature
Well, it's time for one of the most important sights in Hanoi!
Hanoi is a city of rich contrasts. Today we set off on foot, right across town all the way back to the Myanmar embassy to see if they had issued our visas. This was by no means a certainty, as most people have to pre-book package tours just to get into the country. But we’re intrepid travellers, and like to go it alone. So some weeks ago we booked our flights in and out of Yangon (that’s Rangoon to anybody but the evil remnants of the Ne Win government.) Two days ago we had a telephone message at our hostel saying that we had to call the embassy. What on earth could be the problem? Well, we know that the Myanmar government is scrupulous in checking up on people’s backgrounds, perhaps to make sure that we’re not journalists. But perhaps they didn’t want us snooping around their country without some official minders in tow? Jon called them back on our cell, and their was a massive language barrier. It transpired that they required more details of our proposed programme within the country; Simon spent a few hours this morning putting together an official-looking document detailing our every move. Hopefully this would suffice, but one never knows with these types of regime.
We turned up nervous and very early for our appointment. What was about to happen? The receptionist looked at our newly published itinerary for under two seconds, read aloud the title to the office girls, gave us back the receipts and handed over our passports. There inside was the Myanmar visa: game on!
Meanwhile, we had also built in some cultural activities: a visit to the Temple of Literature. Here we found ancient buildings, traditional music, statues, bells and drums. What a welcome oasis in the frenetic city. Jon couldn’t resist a few booms on this massive drum, but I’m not sure whether the authorities saw it as a particularly good idea…
Tomorrow brings something altogether more creepy. Can you guess what it might be? Think Lenin, think Chairman Mao. Who (or Ho) might we be going to visit?