Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Temple of Literature

The gate to the entrance of the Temple of Literature; included in the compound is the first University of Hanoi.

Before we went to VN, we visited Bejing and the tourist sites in and around that capital. The thing that struck me about the Temple of Literature was how old it was (built in 1070, if I remember correctly), that it was still up (save for a section in the rear that has been reproduced after suffering bombing damage during the war), and how few souvenir hawkers populated the periphery of this place.

Except for the Great Wall, most of the sites you see in and around Beijing were from the Ming era (400ish years ago?) and some things, like items within the Ming Tombs, were recreations because so many of the antiques were either raided or destroyed. Plus the sites in China were overrun with other tourists and folks selling wares - one hardly had a peaceful moment to take in the place, much less get a picture uncluttered by other tourists (like oneself).

Here are the stone stele - kinda like tombstones, but not, each dedicated to a particular noted scholar and inscribed with a poem of their work. There are about 80 of them or so and a number of the turtles were unique to one another. Artists come here to sketch them and students come by before their placement exams to garner luck and fortune in their studies.

Villas in Hanoi

This is typical of the villas / townhouses in Hanoi and the rest of VN. As you can see on the left of the frame, these houses are constructed from reinforced poured concrete which is then painted in these bold, interesting colors. The narrow construction evokes Amsterdam, or at least my impression of what Amsterdam would be like.

It would be kinda neat to live in a place like this, but as the helpful Emma from Xe Maybe pointed out, heating and cooling would be a bear. It was freaking hot in Hanoi when we visited (duh, it's the middle of summer), so I want my AC.

This is the 'modern' interpretation of the Hanoi villas. This is from the Ciputra development in the "Western" part of town. Looks like something out of the Truman Show; I'm sure it is nice and clean, but wow, is it stale and boring.

Here's a mill

Here's a million bucks, in VND. The new money over there, like a lot of Euro countries, is made from a polymer - benefits being longer service life and more advanced fraud protection (see the clear plastic insert on the right of the bill. The downside, I guess, is the odd play-money feel to it all.

When I went to the local bank to exchange some USD to VND, they had me fill out a slip that included my name and address. A part of the "Exchange Control," I gather. No I.D. check meant that one needn't be too accurate with the info. So what if Bill Clinton just got $200USD of local currency on a lazy weekday morning in Hanoi.