Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The tortoise hunter

They're pretty big on tortoises in Hanoi, which is good as I'm pretty big on them myself. They carve stone effigies in their universities, cultivate mummified specimens in their temples and there are even legends about giant ones swimming around in the impractically small Hoan Kiem Lake. Oh hang on, that'll be turtles if they're swimming won't it?

Ah well, same thing, innit? Like saying 'monkeys' when you mean apes, or 'Chinese' when you mean anyone east of Bangladesh. Same thing, innit? No, it isn't. Get out of my sight!

Ngoc Son Temple

If there are giant turtles lurking in this shallow pond, they're doing an even more impressive job of hiding than the Loch Ness Monster

Incense jungle

Nothing livens up a holy building like the mummified remains of a giant reptile. Apparently genuine? If it wasn't, would they bother with the expense of a dedicated air conditioner?

More biscuit-based offerings to the gods. The assortments are thoughtful: there'll be something to please everyone in there, even if someone gets left with the custard creams

I was here on a Sunday afternoon, which unfortunately seemed to be the time every vain couple dig out their wedding clothes and get photographers to snap ridiculous poses around the perimeter of the lake, like they're trying to trick people in thinking they hired these prestigious venues for their wedding or something. Bloody posers


I think those kids behind me appreciated what I was satirising. They were laughing a lot when they walked past us anyway. Can't have been anything else

Văn Miếu
(Temple of Literature)

Vietnam's first university, founded in 1070 - take that, Oxford! (1096-ish)

There was a sign at the entrance expressly forbidding market stalls and selling of tat in general, and for once the Vietnamese complied. This was a refreshing change from pretty much every other significant temple I've been in South East Asia, where you can't walk for stumbling over child labourers

The tortoise fetishising continues. Well, they were smart people. These stone testudines bear the students' names on tablets for eternity

Yeah, and I suppose you dredged out a wondrous turtle specimen coated in gold from this magical lake, right?

I don't know what to believe any more


  1. Custard Creams are one of the best biscuits.

    Oliver, bringing you insightful, culturally relevant and significant comments since 2010.

    1. There are subjective opinions and then there are just wrong ones.