Thursday, March 10, 2011
On Tuesday we had a full day around Hanoi. We met up with Lon at 9:00 and went directly to the Ho Chi Minh mauseleum (sp?). There was quite a line and we went through security and etiquette training. Finally, we silently with hands at our sides viewed the embalmed remains of the Vietnam national hero - Ho Chi Minh. It was really quite creepy. Next Lon walked us over to Ho Chi Minh's house on stilts where he lived until he died in 1969. The setting was near a lovely little lake in beautiful park and gardens. There is a large ornate Presidential House also in this park - Ho Chi Minh refused to live there and stayed in a simple tree house instead. Near this was also the One Pillar Pagoda - some sort of place people go if they want help having a baby - we stayed as far away as possible.
Next we took a short drive to a narrow alleyed neighborhood for a glance into daily life in Hanoi. Walking down the alleys was difficult with all the scooters and cars zipping about. This neighborhood had many little doorfront businesses - pharmacy, convenience store, scooter wash - the strangest were the "butcher shops" where a person sat with 4 pieces of fresh meat on a folding table. This led to a little pond where a B52 bomber crashed and was left there. The neighborhood has sort of built around it.
For lunch we had Pho at a place called, of all things, Pho 24. I had beef Pho and Jim had "All". We doctored up the broth with all the little pots of sauces and fresh herbs and slurped up the rice noodles and delicious broth. Loved it!
We next went to the Temple of Literature where students were taught Confuciousism forever ago. There were ancient tablets with the names of each class of those who passed examination. There was a lot of symbolism here - square pagodas signifying earth (shows how much they knew) decorated with many circle cutouts - signifying the universe. There were also many carved cranes standing on turtles (crane = heaven; turtle = earth). The temple had a huge sculpture of Confucious with carvings of a bunch of his students to his left and right.
We left the Temple of Literature and drove to the Old Quarter where Jim and I each got in a cyclo for a ride around. We felt a bit foolish in the cyclos as we could have just as easily strolled at the same speed. The cyclos brought us down Shoe Street where the sell (you guessed it) all kinds of shoes and only shoes and also Silk Street (same concept). Jim took good video of the crazy traffic. Our cyclo ride ended at the Hanoi Hilton prison where Lon took us on a tour - it was too creepy - particularly the room where they showed torture stuff. I couldn't wait to get out of there. This is where US pilots were kept as POW's in - how the museum described it to be Club Med type lifestyle.
After a little shopping we went to the Water Puppet Theater. This was cute and we saw a bunch of performances relating to ancient Vietnamese folk tales - it really tied together a lot of what Lon taught us over the prior few days.
That evening we had an OK dinner at Club de l'Oriental. Next day would have us saying goodbye to Hanoi.