Well, our time in Hanoi has come to an end after using it as a home base for a little over a week. We loved Hanoi! We stayed in the colorful, labyrinthine Old Quarter of town, full of narrow winding streets packed full of shops, vendors, markets, food stalls, etc. There are amazing smells wafting around, delicious street food to sample on every corner. And motorbikes!!! Motorbikes rule here. Every street contains a sea full of bikes going in every direction. While surely there are some traffic rules, we cannot ascertain what they might be. Crossing the street is not for the faint of heart as the traffic never seems to stop, and the crosswalks I think are just for decoration. You have to slowly inch your way into the onslaught and move with steady, gentle fluid motion, and voila, the sea amazingly parts around you. The key is staying calm and steady, which is sometimes difficult with my mother-in-law Nanny-Co (and I mean this lovingly) going “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god…” See video below which was taken on our street, gives at least an idea of the chaos.
Our favorite activity in Hanoi, aside from eating amazing food, was simply strolling around this vibrant city. Other highlights included walking through the many markets, visiting the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” which Coalter has already mentioned, touring a temple in the middle of a lake which had an embalmed sea turtle. We also visited the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and saw an embalmed Ho Chi Minh. This was a very solemn event in which we had to march two by two escorted by Vietnamese military in full military regalia carrying bayonets. “Uncle Ho” as he is affectionately known in Vietnam looked pretty good but apparently he goes to Russia once a year for some “touch up work.” Below are some photos of our favorite activity, eating, and a few market scenes. For more gruesome market pictures, contact Henry and Braxton directly.
The boys have been learning a lot about the Vietnam war (or the “American War” is it is called here), the events that led up to it, and the US involvement. Prisons, guillotines, soldiers, bayonets and embalmed military leaders really help with the education process of young boys!
We visited a wonderful exhibit at the National Women’s Museum. We saw a traditional water puppet show. We went to a performance of traditional Vietnamese music and dance featuring a long dance of the Mother Goddess, who is worshiped by many here. Coco had a Thai massage and was pounded, slapped, pulled and contorted like a pretzel. Sounded a lot like assault to me, but she loved it.
While we had intended to see more of Vietnam, we opted to cut it short as we were advised to get out of the country during Tet (Chinese New Year). During this time the country all but shuts down in celebration. I think it would be fun to see. You can feel the excitement build as the preparations are under way… lights, flags, lanterns and banners are being hung, trees are being planted, flowers everywhere. I’m sure it will be quite a site!