Hanoi


Smaller, quieter, greener and more dignified than Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s capital can sometimes look like a provincial French city. This, like most things in Vietnam, is changing fast as economic restrictions are lifted and old regulations are forgotten. Life (and traffic, unfortunately) is abundant in the streets and shopping no longer means a trip to a dreary government department store.

Ho Chi Minh Memorial

Poor Ho Chi Minh could not escape his present, well preserved fate, despite his wishes to be cremated. Completed in 1975, the granite structure serves as a receiving stand for officials and party leaders. When visiting Uncle Ho, be certain to wear respectable attire: no shorts, short skirts or tank tops. No bags or bombs were allowed either and be sure to watch some of the native women’s reaction to seeing Uncle Ho. He really looks alive and some of the women in front of us burst into tears upon leaving his presence. I guess you should never under estimate the power of good propaganda!

Hanoi Hilton

The Hoa Lo Prison, nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton, held American POWs during the Vietnam War and Vietnamese revolutionaries during the French rule. Most of the prison was replaced by the Hanoi Towers skyscraper, containing a five-star hotel and shopping center, but a portion preserved on Pho Hoa Lo off Hai Ba Trung just before the Towers is now a small, self-explanatory museum. Its definitely worth a visit and don’t worry if you get there on a day its supposed to be closed. The guy there will open the place if you pay him the admission. Maison Centrale (aka Hanoi Hilton):

Air Force Museum

This museum is a little bit of distance from the main attractions in the city but is well worth the trip. You’ll get a full dose of Vietnamese propaganda and you can have your photo taken in a MIG! Notice that the pictures of the Vietnamese fighter pilot heroes all look like the same few guys! Doesn’t this analog instrumentation look ancient?

Scenes of Hanoi

We roamed the dense Old Quarter and walked to Hoan Kiem Lake for a water puppet show. Although we were unable to make an excursion to Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island, I was told that if we had more time we should go there. I’ve included some photos of that region for your viewing pleasure. As we walked the streets of Hanoi, it was great to observe the wonderful French architecture of the diplomatic neighborhoods and watch the merchant women wearing rattan hats and aiming to sell their day’s produce before heading back to their villages. At the end of our Hanoi visit, we transferred to the railway station and caught the Reunification Express south to Hué.

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