Backpacking Vietnam Part 2: Communication Breakdowns in Hanoi
The non-stop honking, our sleep deprivation, getting lost and then not having anyone at the train station earlier in the day understand our request to buy train tickets made us turn on each other. Thus Noah's stink face in the beginning of this part. It's not Vietnam's fault, we were just thoroughly overwhelmed and knew we only had a month here so we needed to move faster than usual. Eventually, we got ourselves together and found out that not all train stations were created equal and the main station 'Ga Ha Noi' (which I will never in my life forget how to say) might have an english speaker who we could buy tickets from. When we got there, it was total confusion again as we learned that the Vietnamese don't really queue up in lines so one booth would open for a second and everyone would rush over there. Then she would answer one question, close the window again and then everyone would rush to an open line. It was crazy and we met an Italian man there that loudly kept calling everyone in Hanoi the "Viet Cong" and how they were "animals". We had a rough day but this guy was over the top! We asked him how long he'd been in Vietnam and he said he arrived yesterday! Technically, we'd been there longer than him and he said he was on his way back to Thailand. His bad attitude made us adjust our own and learn to just go with the flow. Things got way easier after that and you can see Noah having fun with it and talking me down. I love that about him, we always seem to be able to remain a team and never stay mad at each other for too long. We knew in this whole country we only had each other so it was silly to push each other away. After the train madness, we hit up the The Temple of Literature and was in awe of the history and reverence for education. We had a great day and met incredible people which again seems to be our experience with Vietnam. Starts off rocky, end up being humbled and amazed. Vietnam, you so crazy.
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Taxi ride: Armed with only a language app, we attempted to get train tickets at a smaller station earlier in the day but because Vietnamese is a tonal language we were struggling to explain what we wanted an no one understood our requests. It was very irritating so we hoped there would be an English speaker at the main train station, also known as GA Hanoi.
Temple of Lit: The gate outside asks for horsemen to dismount, as it's said that no man, even the monarchy is above education.
Welcome to temple of Literature, founded in 1070 by a king. It is Vietnam's first University. Dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars, the temple is a rare example of well preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture and is the perfect retreat from the streets of Hanoi.
There are 5 courtyards here with 3 paths. The center path was reserved for the monarch only, the one to its left for the administrative bureaucrats and to the right, military Mandarins.
In the 15th century, the practice of carving plaques that bear the names of successful students began. The plaques, or stelae sit on a stone tortoise which is one 4 revered creatures in Vietnam mythology and represents longevity. In the complex, there are 82 stone stale, with the names of 1300 students, but sadly, 34 stale are missing, lost to time, war or theft.
The university functioned for more than 700 years, during which 2,313 doctorates were given. Thought in 1802 the imperial academy moved from Hanoi to the new capital of Hue, students still come to this sight to touch the stone tortoises for good luck on an upcoming test or pay their respects to this important sight when they graduate from college.