Elephant No. 23: Hanoi, Vietnam

This particular elephant comes from a special temporary exhibition entitled “Mythical Creatures” at the National Museum of Vietnamese History in Hanoi. We happened by complete coincidence to arrive at the museum on the opening morning of the exhibition – a fact it took us a while to realise as it dawned on us that there were far too many film cameras and tv presenters inside the exhibition for this to be a normal day. Most of the museums on this trip in Asia have been filled with people walking irritatingly slowly through the galleries, painstakingly taking a photo of each object with their smartphones, but not actually looking at the object in question except through their smartphone screen. I have never understood this practice: sure, take a photo of a couple of your favourite exhibits to remember them, but what are you going to do with many hundreds and hundreds of pictures from a museum? I really doubt that you are going to look at them much in the future. What’s more, it prevents you from looking at the objects with your own eyes and anyway many museums have websites with high-quality images of their objects if you really wanted to look at them again after!  (more…)

Hello Hanoi! 

This post could equally well be titled Hello Halong!, or Hello Hoi An! or Hello Hue! – the point being that we have now left Indonesia behind us and moved onto the wonderful country that is Vietnam, which also seems to have a strange propensity for cities beginning with the letter H. The change of country came just at the right time – although I would have liked a little more time in Bali to discover the interior of the island and an extra week to visit Flores and the Komodo dragons, I was certainly ready for a change from the ubiquitous cuisine of nasi goreng and mie goreng (fried rice/noodle), the expensiveness of all alcoholic beverages and the frustrating lack of transport options for much of the archipelago.