... Like a whacking great big United Nations school
26.02.2013 - 10.03.2013 20 °C
A fortnight ago Jill and I headed north with 12,15-16 year old pupils from school to attend the 5th United Nations International School Model United Nations conference ... which meant we got to see a lot of the school and just a bit of the capital city. However, what we did see was very exciting and completely different from HCMC. For a start, we thought moped riders in HCMC were maniacs but they are remarkably tame compared to the suicidal tendencies of bikers in Hanoi. They are just plain mental and crossing the road is, quite literally, murder.
However, if you do actually manage to cross the road(s) there's loads to see in the city and we barely scratched the surface. Our hotel overlooked the beautiful Tay Ho (West Lake) and whilst our ceiling leaked very impressively and we were woken at 5am each morning to the 80s disco keep-fit classes on the lakeside it was, otherwise, very tranquil and pretty. We also visited Hoan Kiem Lake and the Ngoc Son Temple, The spectacular Temple of Literature, the historic heart of the Old Quarter with it's 36 streets named after 36 guilds, a visually stunning flower market (hello Grandad George and Uncle Bobby), and the amazing and quite surreal Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where the great man himself (or bits of him anyway) lies in state. The Vietnamese queue for miles to see him and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We found Hanoi people to be really lovely, and it seemed that there was much more of a Chinese influence to the area, as well as many more ethnic minorities from the hill tribes that live in the mountains that surround the city.
In between all this we managed to get fed by the school very well indeed at two fab buffets, found a really old (1936) coffee house that did a stunning coffee yogurt thing, indulged in a Bia Hoi which is beer brewed that day and served in the evening in little more than a tin shack, and got in a cab that had the quickest and most corrupt meter I've ever seen. Blink and the fare doubled. Literally. We went three hundred yards down the road, were fleeced for about £3.00, got out and were £3.00 worse off and could still see our hotel.
As for the kids, they were legendary and we were very proud of all 12 of them. The school was amazing and their football pitches (with real grass!) covered more acreage than our entire school. The library was beautiful and when the librarian said she'd shipped an illustrator / author over from New York for a two week stay I knew we were batting in a different league. Our pupils were ace and I was extremely proud that as well representing their countries so ably, Jae Hee managed to win Girl's Hair of the conference and Bum Jin managed to walk away with the honour of being Most Likely to Cause World War III. I've clearly taught them well. Though possibly not about Model United Nations. And my organisation was remarkably good. No broken bones, no lost kids, and only one plaster needed for a blister. I went into shock when I got home.
Back in HCMC we were delighted to welcome Margaret (hello Margaret) from Bridport and it was really lovely to see a face from home. We had a great couple of days with her and we hope she enjoyed her time with us too!
And, last weekend we celebrated Mother's Day with a 5km run (which, in the 8am heat just about killed us) and then with our friends Sierra Lynn and Chuong at their brilliant D'lish tea house. We indulged in vast amounts of tea and cake and Sierra Lynn made us the best, best, best trifle type dessert ever. They are really brilliant people and they make us very happy!
Happy birthday to Daisy, who is out of her teens today and we'll report again soon. Love you all, as ever!