There is so much to do in Hanoi, we carefully planned how we were going to fit it all into 3 days.
Headed over to the Mausoleum which closes at 11am, so got a quick taxi over and joined the extremely organised queue. The queuing system shocked us as we haven’t come across such organisation in SE Asia yet, and for Brits like us, we see a queue and our faces light up, “yes! Structure and organisation, our favourite!” Anyways, the queue moved quickly round into the Mausoleum, and the mood turned very sombre as you get closer. The many guards make sure you are acting appropriately, Adam had to take his hands out of his pockets, and some people were talking, and they were told in no uncertain words to shut up. Then you walk in, it gets colder, children begin to cry and it feels very eery. You walk up some stairs, around the corner, and then you are in the room with Ho Chi Minhs body. Statue still guards are placed at each corner of his see through tomb and other guards roughly grab your arms to keep the traffic moving. Ho Chi Minh is cast in a yellow light which just adds to the whole effect. And then you are pushed out the door. All done.
Ironically, Ho Chi Minh wanted to be cremated, not immortalised. But his will was never fulfilled.
We moved onto his Presidential Palace where the impressive “Disney-Land-esque” queueing continued and we saw where he was meant to live in the grand palace, and where Ho Chi Minh built his simple wooden house where he actually lived.
We then moved onto his museum, which we were quite looking forward to seeing, hoping for it to explain a bit more about the man himself as we were both discussing over lunch that in our history lessons, we never really touched upon Vietnam and what we did learn was about the war with the U.S and our knowledge of that is very limited and one sided. His museum was interesting, but of course now we still only got one side of the story, and a glorified one at that. But at least we both began to understand a deeper history of the country.
Our last stop was to the Military History Museum which has lots of old relics from the Japanese, French and U.S war. Again, we learnt things we didn’t know, we were both so surprised to find out just how turbulent Vietnams recent history was and how many countries tried to take over in a short space of time. French, Japan and the U.S all in 50 years.
The relics were interesting and there were a lot to see, the bombed out aeroplane is almost a piece of art (picture above) with how it has been presented. It is just unfortunate that the old planes, helicopters and tanks haven’t been better look after. People are allowed to climb all over them, and some are quite rusty.
It was raining 😦 Still warm-ish but with a very familiar drizzle which we haven’t missed. We made our way over to the Hoa Lo Prison, or better known as the Hanoi Hilton. Again, we thought this was built and used just during the war with the U.S but it turns out that the French built it to imprison revolutionary Vietnamese. It was a creepy place to walk around, especially through the death cells but very interesting, and of course we learnt about how badly the Vietnamese were treated by the French (which I do not doubt) but we also learnt about how well the U.S POW were treated (of which we are far more dubious.)
We then moved onto the Women’s museum which documents the strong role of women in Vietnamese society. Truly interesting. Girl power and all that.
We then went to Hoan Kiem Lake and the statue there. Pretty to walk around, you can buy popcorn, or sausages on a stick and watch the world float by. The water puppet theatre is right by here and we got our tickets ready for the next day. We then took a look around the streets, which thankfully began to look busy again. As due to Tet everything has pretty much been shut and we have been walking around suspiciously quiet streets, it just didn’t suit the city! Anyways, back to the busy streets, stuff is everywhere! People don’t just sell on the side of the road, but also in the middle…
This lady cleverly created a T junction around herself! No one seemed too bothered.
OK, perhaps our last full day wasn’t that busy, but we still got out and about. We took in the water puppet theatre, which was a first: stories told through puppets on/in the water (clue is in the title really) and if it wasn’t so warm in there I certainly wouldn’t have nearly nodded off…
After, we needed a coffee and found a great spot overlooking all the crazy traffic from a height. It was a great place to people watch too,and we wiled away a few hours doing just that!