Homer's Travels: Southeast Asia 2023 - Days Fifteen Through Eighteen - Hanoi, Vietnam

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Southeast Asia 2023 - Days Fifteen Through Eighteen - Hanoi, Vietnam

UPDATED 12-06-2023: Added photos.

Day Fifteen (Friday)

My phone alarm woke us up at 3:00am.  We freshened up and checked out of our hotel. Our driver was a little early and we were taken to the airport.  There was no one working the counters but we were able to check in, get our boarding passes, and check our bags at the self-service kiosk.

We headed for our gate looking for some place to eat along the way.  We ended up eating at McDonalds.  They didn't have a breakfast menu so we had burgers and fries for breakfast.

Passport control went smoothly, we picked up our bags, and met our guide who took us to our hotel.  Our Hanoi hotel was the oldest hotel in Hanoi, was five star, and was surrounded by Hermes, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and other high priced brand stores.

The Wife had some pool time while I worked on a Thailand post.  We then walked down to a church to find Mass times where we heard Adoration in Vietnamese.

We ordered burgers at the poolside bar before realizing that burgers were all we'd eaten all day.

Day Sixteen (Saturday)

We'd checked laundry rates at our hotel the night before and they were astronomical so we'd contacted our guide to arrange a cheaper option. We gave our bag of laundry to a guy on a scooter before starting our tour of Hanoi.

The 'Hanoi Hilton' prison.
The first stop of our tour was the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison. The history of the prison goes back a long way when the French imprisoned and tortured revolutionaries.  This is the prison John McCain was held during the Vietnam war.

Next we drove near the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.  We had suggested we would like to see the embalmed remains of the leader but we could see the long line that would likely eat three hours of our time so we decided to skip it.

An ancient bonsai tree.
Instead we went to the Temple of Literature, a temple/university.  The structures are a mix of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.  It was very interesting and beautiful with ancient bonsai trees decorating the temples.

A woman carrying fruit as we passed her on our cyclos.
Next we had a Cyclo tour of the old town.  A Cyclo has a bike in the back and two wheels with a passenger seat in front. I've had mixed experiences with this type of thing but I enjoyed this one.  It was a good way to see the people and the shopping stalls along the streets.  The Halloween decorations were out and for sale.

After the Cyclo we walked to a restaurant for some Vietnamese lunch. It was pretty good but, like Thai food, it's too many flavors for me.

The bridge crossing the lake to the Ngoc Son Temple.
After lunch we went to the Ngoc Son Temple located on an island in a lake.  The lake is famous for its turtles and the legends that surround them.

We returned to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum just in time to see the changing of the guard.  We learned about the history of Ho Chi Minh.  Next to the Mausoleum are the government buildings where the French (and briefly the Japanese) governed the country.  When the communist forces defeated the French Ho Chi Minh refused to live in the lavish building choosing instead to live in a more modest house nearby.

The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum.
Next to the Mausoleum/government complex we saw the one pillar pagoda.  The pagoda design was seen in a dream and made real to honor the gods.

We returned to the lake area where they were preparing for a weekend festival.  We saw a 'long dress' parade with people wearing traditional clothing and women wearing the long tunics known as Áo dài.

Vietnamese water puppets.
We attended a Vietnamese Water Puppet show in one of the oldest theaters in Hanoi. It was interesting.  We bought small versions of some of the puppets. 

Day Seventeen (Sunday)

We walked to the Saint Joseph Cathedral for Mass.  As we approach we heard some booming of drums.  In front of the cathedral was a large drum corp with several huge drums.  This was an unexpected surprise.  The cathedral was celebrating the first step of the beatification of François Pallu

The drummers outside the Saint Joseph Cathedral.
The cathedral was crowded, hot, and steamy and I was glad when Mass was over.  We returned to the hotel so we could change and cool off before we headed out again.

The hotel was close to a lake.  A festival was in full swing and families were walking around the lake, live music was booming from two stages, and the smell of street food was everywhere.  Our guide had warned us to stay away from the street food so we avoided it despite the smells.  We walked through a few shops buying some souvenirs.  I got a cool Cyclo model for my den. We ended the afternoon with some high end ice cream that was really good.

Day Eighteen (Monday) 

After a late breakfast we walked to one of the old gates of the old city.  From this east gate we wandered through streets lined with shops selling everything under the sun.  We eventually ended up on Halloween street that was wall to wall Halloween decorations.  The one exception was the last store on the street which was full of ... Christmas decorations. 

The east gate of the old city.
I mentioned above that a couple days before, after the water puppet show, we purchased four puppets. When we checked the bag we only found three.  On the way back from the shopping expedition we passed the puppet theater.  The Wife decide to stop in and ask about the fourth puppet.  The people at the theater bent over backwards to help us.  They contacted the vendor who remembered us and, after a short wait, we were given the missing puppet.  They really had no reason to believe us but they were so helpful and this really made the Wife's day.

Back at the hotel, after some pool time, we went on a hotel tour.  The old wing of the hotel in one hundred and twenty-two years old.  During renovations they discovered a secret bomb shelter under the pool bar. The tour was give by a man who was a child during the Vietnam War and he gave an interesting perspective on the war and the bomb shelter.  The shelter was secret so that ordinary Vietnamese would not try to get in.  It was used by embassy diplomats from the French, Polish, Italian, and Cuban embassies.  It was sealed after the war ended and the secret was kept until they found it by accident.

Next on the itinerary: Halong Bay.

Photos can be found in my 2023 Vietnam Google Photos album. 

No comments:

Post a Comment