Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Volunteering In Vietnam

We have been in Ha Noi for two weeks now, however, we have packed so much into the last two weeks that we decided to break up the blog and post it a week at a time. The first week was jam packed full of outings arranged by the new friends we have made in Ha Noi!

I will start by talking about what we are currently doing in Ha Noi. As you know we decided to do a bit of volunteering and decided the capital of Vietnam was the perfect place to do so. We currently teach English to 17-25 year olds for two or three hours everyday and occasionally help out in 3-6 yr old English lessons in the local primary school. We have found it to be a very rewarding and interesting experience and have enjoyed every minute of it. To us, it has been less like teaching and more like making new friends!

Over the last two weeks our new friends have been kind enough to show us so many places in Ha Noi. We have been so lucky to not only see the tourist spots but to have also seen the ‘real’ Ha Noi. That street that only the locals know about, or the best place for ‘Bun Cha’, how to tell which watermelon taste the best and how to bargain like a local and pay 1/10 of the price originally stated; these are all things we have been shown and taught and have very much appreciated.

Within our first week we managed to fit in:

The Old Quarter- The Old Quarter has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each street then had merchants and households specialized in a particular trade, such as silk traders, jewellery, etc. The street names nowadays still reflect these specializations and the area is famous for its merchants, including many silk shops. We enjoy wandering around this area as its good for local food (if you have been shown by a local) however it is where most of the tourists congregate and so we often get hassled (which our Vietnamese friends always find funny)
A guided tour of Sword Lake Temple - According to the legend, emperor Lê Lợi was boating on the lake when his magic sword, Heaven's Will, was grabbed by a turtle who quickly disappeared into the depths. All attempts to find either the sword or the turtle failed. Lợi concluded that the Golden Turtle God (Kim Qui) had come to reclaim the sword that it had given Lợi some time earlier, during his revolt against the Chinese Ming Dynasty.Near the northern shore of the lake lies Jade Island on which the Temple of the Jade Mountain stands. The temple was erected in the 18th century and honors the 13th-century military leader Tran Hung Dao who distinguished himself in the fight against the Yuan Dynasty.

The Museum of Ethnic Minority - This museum focuses on the 54 officially recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam. The Museum is divided into two parts: an indoor and an outdoor exhibition. The indoor part is composed of the exhibition building, where you can learn about all 54 of the different types of cultures that exist in Vietnam. The outdoor exhibition is group of  different types of traditional houses that belong to each ethnic group. One house in particular we were going to experience living in first hand, although we didn't know this at the time!!

Temple of Literature - The Temple of Literature is a former center of learning in Hanoi and includes the "Imperial Academy", Vietnam's first national university. The temple was built in 1070 at the time of King Lý Nhân Tông. It is one of several temples in Vietnam which are dedicated to scholars. This temple is featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese đồng banknote.

Walking around West Lake - West Lake is the largest lake of the capital and was created from a curved part of Red River and appears in several Vietnamese legends. One legend suggests that West Lake was shaped after the battle between Lac Long Quan and a night-tail fox spirit and that the lake was once called "Fox Corpse Swamp". This Lake is very peaceful and is great to walk around, we have gone and sat by the lake to just have a few Lemon Ice Teas and chill out!

Dong Xuan Market -  Dong Xuan Market is the largest covered market of Hanoi where the wholesale traders sell everything from clothes, household goods to foodstuffs. We had fun wandering around here looking at all the bits and bobs that were on sale. We also enjoyed watching the locals making their daily rounds and picking up a few tips on how bargin... Basically you just NEVER pay the price the hawker tells you!!

As for our second week and our second blog, that consisted of the Vietnam Liberation Holiday. This holiday signifies the end of the Vietnam War and meant that we had 4 days off from our schedule. So including the weekend we had a total of 6 days off!! Mr Son (the head of the organisation we are volunteering for) decided he wanted to show us his home town out in the countryside. So we packed our bags and off we went, to where we are still not sure....

To Be Continued...