Posted by Amanda
We had a nice breakfast in the hotel. Finally I got the pho I had been wanting. I had read that a lot of people eat it for breakfast and so they do. The chicken was all white meat and good. If I'd had more time, I would have dressed it up a bit more. I also had some very thick coffee with sweetened condensed milk in it. I wish we could put sweetened condensed milk in more things.
Our first stop on our Hanoi tour was the first university in Vietnam. It is not a university any longer, just a place to worship Confucious. Our guide said students come here to pray which we all misheard as play. It was built in five sections--one for each element of fire, water, air, earth, and iron. It looked very Chinese to me. We did see a brief musical performance with some nifty instruments. One looked like a bamboo xylophone but you clapped your hands at the end of the tubes and music was played. It was actually really hard. I think I got about one note played when I tried it.
Our group was very excited to go shopping so much of our city tour was cancelled, but we did manage to stop at the Ho Chi Minh complex. The line to see Ho Chi Minh's body was quite long but it did move quickly. It was very surreal to see his actual body there. Guards were stationed all around him and others were there to keep us moving. I think he looked very cold--not like emotionally cold because he's dead, but like his body temp is probably really low.
We then breezed by the Presidential Palace and the house on stilts that he lived in. I'm not totally sure why he lived in these various houses as the group was so eager to move along we didn't learn anything. I guess that is what wikipedia is for.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the old district shopping and having lunch. At first Noah and I were not thrilled to have so much of the trip cancelled for more shopping, but we both really enjoyed the area. It was lively and fun with a hint of Paris to it. We found bubble tea and enjoyed it even though we are a bit worried about the ice in it. We also found a good bootleg DVD place and picked up a few things. There were a lot to consider but Noah's taking a personal stance against bootlegs so we didn't buy too many. The funny thing with all of these movies is that the descriptions on the back rarely match the movie or tv show. Superman Returns was titled Overwhelming USA Action Movie.
We met up with Marie, the registrar, for lunch at Pho24--a chain throughout Vietnam. Surprisingly, it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. I'm starting to think I don't really like Vietnamese food. It's not spicy enough or flavorful enough.
We had hoped to hit the bubble tea place again and Noah decided to buy one more DVD but we ran out of time. We did have a chance to cross a pretty red bridge over a green lake. According to our inflight magazine this was the Huc Bridge on the Hoan Kiem Lake. They describe it as a red ribbon extending over the lake's green waters.
Off to the airport, Noah dutifully carrying our rice wine jug. When I emptied it last night, it was filled with rice--really filled. I did worry that a ton of bugs would come out too but just rice. It was a bit of a mess in the hotel, but I still think it is cool and will make a nice vase with a good story.
Oh, while we were waiting for our bubble tea some Vietnamese women started playing with my hair. I should know better than to have it all curly and showing in Asia. I guess I hoped that since in our cultural pre-port they said people's shoulders and head are sacred so don't touch them, it would work in reverse too.
Our flight back to Ho Chi Minh City was uneventful. We took a cab to the city center rather than going back to the ship so Noah could try on his suit. It will be ready for him tomorrow night. We then hit another DVD store so Noah could get one last thing--all for research on spec scripts. Then spent some time downloading Lost at a coffee shop. A cab to the ship ended our night. All in all, a good day in Vietnam and not a bad advertisement for Communism.