Hanoi City cultural Tour

Posted in Hanoi City, Vietnam Travel on June 1, 2009 by MOUSUMI DUTTA

Darlings,  No trip to the City of Hanoi would be complete without visting this famed site

hi chi flag

The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum.  Having made eye contact with a moped driver

moped driver

& a suitable “foreigner” fee agreed upon, the driver motioned with his hand that “Uncle Ho” was sleeping. I nodded in agreement “Yes”, I wanted to visit the sleeping ” Uncle”, the mausoleum not the museum. A plume of black smoke emerged from the moped & as I was about to hop on behind him noticed the 5 letter word emblazoned across the moped “MINSK”…I stared in disbelief as it was the real thing from the Soviet era , still going strong ! So, where’s that postcard… well, I was too caught up…

I chuckled at the thought of visiting Uncle Ho aboard a Minsk. Mind you, no helmets in sight here…however, women had walked by wearing cone hats selling produce.

hi chi

A long line of visitors stood as cameras, bags, mobile phones were retained.  The mausoleum was located in the New section of Hanoi.

Uncle Ho lay in the inner depths of this impressive mausoleum – elegant & dignified in military regalia. Hard to believe he was gone since 1969 – his embalmed body kept for a Nation proud of the Man who had freed them from Colonial stronghold. His body lay in a  glass enclosed roped off area.  The other embalmbed body in this World would be that of Lenin in Moscow. Silently, visitors walked by…mostly Vietnamese & a few tourists.

house on stilts

Next stop was to see Ho Chi Minh’s house & office…yes…this is all so real, not textbook info…This was his house on stilts …there is a living room downstairs & upstairs is a bedroom & another office.

Surrounded by a koi pond & rosebush garden that he tended…how all this escaped attacks is a wonder but there is a secret tunnel underneath the house that visitors are not allowed into…

Closeby Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts is this impressive building…

Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace of the former residence of the governor of French IndoChina (IndoChine)…so regal & ostentatious…

Next stop was the famed “Hanoi Hilton” as dubbed by US Prisoners. Senator John McCain was here for 5 yrs & hence the Hotel terminology. This is what the Hotel looks like…

maison centrale

Built by the French to control Vietnamese uprisings & later retained US POW’s, the original French name “Maison Centrale” remains as a testament to a foreign language imposed upon another Nation. Much of it has been torn down as located in a commerical area to accomodate new highrise construction, however a section of it  remains along with prison cells, torture chambers, interrogation rooms, guillotines with spot lights – art gallery style, all now part of a viewing gallery. Newspaper clippings from the 60’s & photographs of President Nixon & JFK, brought to reality a bygone era.

No shortage of War memorabilia in Hanoi with the War Museum outfitted with fighter jets, raiders, hawks, anything & everything but going into the jet to have a photograph taken with camo gear…

war museum

A line of cannons at the ready , waiting word from the Tower Guard …

annocannon tower

Even in Times of War, Peace prevails with

1 pillar pagoda

the presence of 1 Pillar Pagoda…which was destroyed but re-built in the same location on a pond…so fung shui…

As for us, having seen all this cultural memorabilia, time to check into one of those Cafe’s for some edible culture & have a Cafe Noir & maybe a bon bon…while we plan our next excursion…

The Sapa fashion directory & guide

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 24, 2009 by MOUSUMI DUTTA

Darlings,  That weekend excursion to Sapa…well guess what…it got extended… between the tranquil atmosphere, the ambience & the colorful local attire…why rush to leave ? And so, more postcards of what I oogled over walking around Sapa. Caught these Hmong Women pondering…

faces

and then the 3 children sporting Sapa style capris Continue reading

A weekend excursion to Sapa, Vietnam

Posted in TRAVEL, Vietnam Travel with tags , , , on May 17, 2009 by MOUSUMI DUTTA

Darlings, When Summer heat arrives to the city of Hanoi, what better place to escape to than tread the path of French Colonialists & venture North to Sapa – Vietnam. 

sapa

 A world away from the city & these days, most if not all travellers arrive there by overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai which takes 8 hrs. You have 3 choices – the 1st class Victoria express complete with your own Cabin, white down comforter, white curtains & exclusive meals. The downsize being that the end of the journey will have you contemplate turning into a train setter as opposed to jet setter. Then there’s 2nd class cabins with 2 bunk beds per compartment with wood panelling & lastly for the budget traveller – the 4 bunk  cabin with minimalist chic metal panelling . As for the ride itself…this can be compared to a NYC subway ride with all the jerking, sudden stops & starts…well being a night train the driver might have had his share of opium!

The arrival into Lao Cai is greeted with pre dawn views of billowing clouds giving way to this panorama

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Terraced mountains, cooler temparatures, summer picnics & hiking is how I picture French Madames et famille.

Oh my & take a look at the locals in their native attire !

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 The Vietnamese refer to them as “Minorities” & why on earth one would refer to their own citizens as Minorities is beyond me but Tribal people do tend to take a 2nd class place in society.  On weekends / market day, this is the scene

sea of heads

A sea of heads as the  tribal groups flock to Sapa to stock up on supplies & sell their wares / handicrafts. There are 2 distinct tribes

black hmong

Black Hmong with their hand dyed linen Indigo outfits & who are also referred to as the “Blue People” with their blue hands from constant dyeing…no rubber gloves here

dsao headgear

And then theres the Dzao (pronounced Dao) with their elaborate Red woolen headgear, shaved eyebrows & also shaved heads

dzao

Their handmade creations sold at the weekend market, where …yes…I’ll hassle you until you purchase type scenario exists & indeed amazing handicrafts to purchase…a crafters shopping mecca of sort

sellers

Bedspreads, hats, aluminium jewelry, a Cottage industry well worth the visit – made in Vietnam & not in China! Infact the volume of handwork might be considered labor intensive for any duplication.

blue bedspread

Easy to become a gawker here but once you are over the Tribal attire, there’s Vietnamese meals to be sampled in the local market

chef

…here’s a chef ready to whip up a spicy concotion, made to order… FDA rules & regs’ appears to be MIA in these parts!

Shopping not your thing…the panoramic vistas of the terrain are all a natural wonder. Roads being repaired from years of war…can you imagine having a war in this verdant landscape ?

early am sapa

Somehow, don’t see any Colonial buildings & wonder where the French would have stayed…don’t get the feeling they stayed in a cabiny lodge like these that are dotted around.

lodge

Manmade developments  are a miss in these parts…authentic & rural

 rural

…an escape from modernities as contemplating the vastness of natural beauty envelopes the traveller…to which I will digress until the next set of postcards. Au revoir darlings &  please bear with me as I am in the process of updating this layout for something more appropo to the vibe of these postcard excursions.

A visit to modern day Indochine

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 11, 2009 by MOUSUMI DUTTA

Bonjour Darlings, I’m always looking for Travel inspiration being that I don’t exactly have a list of places to visit (can you belive no list) & so after watching the movie ‘Indochine”, what better place to journey to than Vietnam, in particular Northern Vietnam to experience the French Colonial & Vietnamese Communist stronghold as seen in the movie.

Our First stop would be to fly into the city of Hanoi from NY on Cathay Pacific into Hong Kong & then on Vietnam Airlines to Hanoi which takes 1 hr. Love those small destinations after an 18 hr hurdle…

First glimpse of early morning in Hanoi, the flower seller with long stalks of gladiolus…such the Francais touch

flower seller

Then the fruit seller balancing baskets laden with clementines & wearing a conical straw hat for protection against the sun.clementines

more clementines

You know you’re in Asia when you see locals tucking into soup for breakfast, sitting on low plastic stools barely 12″ from the ground

soup

And here’s the soup station itself with its concotions perfuming the air. Here its called “Pho”, a rice noodle soup with chicken & greens…mild or spicy…made to order.soup stationj

Infact, street side dining on those low plastic stools & catching up on gossip appeared to be the norm for the youth of Hanoi

sitting

Not only the youth but also the elder community were seen sitting on those low plastic stools having coffee & a smoke…the Hanoi style corner smoke shop …so cosy…

tea

ofcourse, the French left their mark & patisserie / bistros abound with cane chairs et all, someplace that Catherine Daneuve would have hung out while filming “Indochine’, although only part of the film was filmed in Hanoi but these were the local haunts.

cafe

 Left over from French colonialists were these quaint French colonial buildings now turned into galleries, cafes & quaint boutiques. Quintessential emerald green French shutters & faded mustard yellow buildings all reminiscent of Hanoi’s heritage. Elaborate doorways leading into

door

the Vietnamese world of handicrafts, embroideries, lacquerwork abound

ofcourse to maneuver oneself amongst Hanoi traffic with all its mopeds is an art for the traveller & far worse than anything elsewhere in Asia  but isnt that part of the thrill ?

viet traffic

You know after a day of walking around the Old Quarter of Hanoi…we’ve only just seen a glimpse…there’s more but those will be another set of postcards …au revoir darlings…

Rites of Spring, Earth Celebration in New York

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 3, 2009 by MOUSUMI DUTTA

Darlings,  The month of May not only starts with May Day but all over the World, people are celebrating something or other to herald the arrival of Spring. In Asia this week, its Family Week & in New York, its the rites of Spring festivities in the East Village section of town. The pageantry starts with elaborate fairy tale like costumes donned with paper mache figures worthy of viewing in a Soho art galleryeast-village-procession1

Under the guidance of a Shaman Woman, the pageantry makes visitations to each NYC Community Garden with bessings to follow

shaman-woman

 The ever so watchful Sun Goddess towering above

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And what garden would be complete without a She Devil to becon those weeds

she-devil

And lets not forget the Moon Goddess

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Magical Floral beings to rival annuals & perennials

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No matter which way you lookflower-girl-back

All this created my hand…even our feathered friends were not forgottentoucan

 even the newest wee garden additions insisted on joining in

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the pagentry ended with a show of color, a folkloric tale in itself

show-of-color

until this time next year when new invitations would be handed out for another Spring Season to mark a new beginning

next-year-invite

And so I wish you all a wonderful Spring, happy gardening & I’m planning our next flight of fancy…so until the next set of postcards…au revoir

Ode to Earth Day

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 26, 2009 by MOUSUMI DUTTA

Darlings, Belated Greetings to all for Earth Day which passed by on April 22 but can’t wait to share my GREEN SIGHTINGS with you. Where else to wander aimlessley but inside  this

 Green Magical Paradise – Jardin Majorelle

majorelle

Enchanting & Exotic

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Breathtaking & Colorful walkways

walkway

Green in every shade – Verdigris, Emerald, Mint , Lime, all rolled together

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Interesting shadows to distract

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A fountain surrounded by cacti, succulents, palm & bamboo

fountain

Even smelling & breathing Green Pollen feels FRESH in a Green kind of way. Oh my…all this green has me hallucinating…is that the Green Roof of Villa Dar Es Saada, home of Yves St Laurent ?

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A warning to all…GREEN LIVING CAN BE OVER STIMULATING WHEN EXPOSED TO LARGE DOSES… Proceed with caution…Au Revoir

Marrakesh Medina (a birds eye tour)

Posted in TRAVEL with tags , on April 20, 2009 by MOUSUMI DUTTA

Hello Darlings, All good things must come to an end & so after much idling on our Beach escapade, we are moving onto Essaouira’s famous neighbour who would be well known Marrakesh. We’re still travelling Budget style, so are taking the Supratours Bus to get to our destination. Now, don’t get twitchy  about public transport…its a Luxury Bus, no stops along the way, airconditioned, large windows, Free views.. And my, what a View

oaqsis

Desert plus greenery growing side by side. This must be what they call an Oasis. Imagine waking up to this each day…could take an easy 10 yrs off minus the Botox, don’t you agree ?

Oh no… Calamity…this just happened…

bus

Our Bus hit this Car! Wonder what the driver was thinking of…either he was also mesmerized by the view or possibly thinking of his several wives (ahem). Can’t photograph the police here in their regal French Colonial inspired attire but you go ahead & imagine all that.

Finally arrived at destination Marrakesh & this really is a Peach City.

peach

Look at the color of those walls & so many exciting things to see in the alleys of the Medina. Idlers just like us, loitering around…

idlers

Place Jemma el Fna has to be the Center of the Marrakesh Universe ! During the day its an enchanting square filled with snake charmers, fortune tellers, henna artists, fortune tellers to demystify your life, sooth sayers to calm jangled nerves & a shoppers paradise for those with money no object lifestyle.

jemma

At night its transformed into a diners paradise, complete with food stalls, tables & benches, dine under the stars…gastronomic extravaganza. A Street Food hallmark if you will.

medina

The maze of the Medina surrounds this square, people watching haven, the Minaret of the koutoubia mosque towering above. Sip a Mint Tea, watch the world go by as you tune into the beat of the “Call to Prayer” from a nearby Mosque or the faint songs of Cheb Khaled singing “Aisha” from a CD.

spice

The aroma of the Spice souk in triangular mounds of color…turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, dates & oh my the colors – saffron, pistachio, mustard…what a tonic for the soul…You know its about time those computer tecchies invented a SMELL funtion for moments like this, don’t you agree ?

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Slipper souk displays of footwear to satisfy any desires should you decide to become a Genie anytime soon & in these economic times, need to keep all options open you know.

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 And should you decide to join a harem or fall victim to a Native Idler of sort…outfits to satiate the eyes of any Arabian Knight or possibly an Arabian Fly by Night.

sunset

As they say, when in Marrakesh…do as the locals do…sip Mint Tea, watch the sunset, make a toast / Hamdullilah to your health & Inshallah that this trip continues with more postcards to come. Au revoir darlings.