Hanoi (11.07.2012): Today we explored Hanoi to the max. We have walked miles in what seems to have been our hottest day in Vietnam yet. We set off early after breakfast to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The mausoleum houses Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body, which was a very strange experience. There are many guards surrounding the mausoleum and it was quite intimidating. Many Vietnamese people save for some time to make the pilgrimage to see 'Uncle Ho' - it is interesting to see their reaction. What is sad is that it was the dying leader's wish to be cremated and have his ashes scattered across Vietnam - ironically he did not want to become a shrine.
Much of the day was devoted to learning more about Ho Chi Minh. We have seen his portrait everywhere - shop windows, bank notes, statues, post cards. Indeed even Saigon has been renamed Ho Chi Minh. This man is a legacy for the Vietnamese and seems to have been glorified. It was Ho who strove the independence of Vietnam. He seems to have been a very eloquent and inspirational figure who will live on in the minds of the Vietnamese for many years to come.
After visiting the mausoleum we visited the Ho Chi Minh complex containing the Presidential House, Ho's stilt house, and Ho's other residences along with his cars. Next stop was the Ho Chi Minh Museum which was an artsy museum showing different artwork encompassing the views and values of Ho Chi Minh.
In the end we were all Ho Chi Minh-ed out and so headed for the largest lake in Hanoi - the west lake and for something much more brain numbing - the swan boats. Unfortunately, the swan boats are most certainly made for Vietnamese people. Even my legs were too long for them. Pedalling was extremely painful. We now both have knee pain! Leaving the swan boats behind, we stopped for a quick bite to eat before checking out the very pretty Quan Thanh Temple.
Next followed a long walk to the Temple Of Literature, a very tranquil complex of buildings which was founded in 1070. I think we have seen so many temples we are being to appreciate them less. We need some fresh eyes. I am sure we will miss them in Oz.
Next stop a long stroll to the French Quarter where we checked out Hoa Lo Prison. The prison was built by the French to detain Vietnamese dissidents. The exhibits emphasises the horrid conditions that the prisoners were detained in. It was later used during the Vietnam War to detain American pilots - including US Senator John McCain.
After the prison we walked on to Hoan Keim Lake - Hanoi's centrepiece. We had a nice stroll around the lake before heading back to our hotel in the Old Quarter. The Old Quarter is really quirky. Each street sells the same thing: there is a street for shoes, one for lights, one for kitchen things, one for clothes, one for funerals, one for TVs etc.. They don't seem to understand the concept of competition. There are some lovely art shops here (on art street) with some very talented artists. There is food everywhere - little roadside eateries crammed full of locals on tiny stools. They kill the chickens on the street and sit down, cook and eat them. There's frogs to eat, snails, snakes.. lots of oddities. On the train they sold the eggs that have foetuses in them. People just bite them whole - even Adam has declined trying one.
This is our last night now in Hanoi Guesthouse. We have packed up our bags ready for our flight tomorrow and are very much looking forward to Singapore.