Today we left the ship at 3:45am to catch our flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. On the plane we had dim sum for breakfast, which was interesting, and we arrived in Hanoi around 8:00am. We have a wonderful tour guide: he told us to call him Mango because his Vietnamese name is to hard to pronounce. He is spending the entire 3 day trip with us and is full of fascinating information about Vietnamese culture and history. He is very honest about Vietnam which surprised us because we didn't think he would be able to speak his mind in a communist country. He talked about their elections and how they are "only for show" because, of course, there is no competition in the politics here. He also talked about how they are gaining more freedom of speech and freedom of the press. He says they are progressing although the government still tries to direct your thoughts.
When we arrived in Hanoi we visited the Temple of Literature where the first university in Vietnam was built. The architecture was very beautiful, and we also got to see some live music demonstrations. Next, we visited the "Hanoi Hilton" which is the nickname for a prison which was built by the French in 1896. This was a place where many leaders of the Vietnamese Communist Party were imprisoned, tortured and sometimes killed. They were bound by their feet and rarely fed. A few of the prisoners escaped via the narrow sewer but most died or were killed in the prison. It was a very sad place.
We then drove 3 hours north to Ha Long Bay. One of the most beautiful places in the world. Tomorrow we are going to take a 4 hour bay cruise on a "junk" boat. We are staying at the "Grand Hotel" and we have a huge wall of windows with a beautiful view of the bay. It was another great day today!
-In Vietnam they eat dog, cat, frog, cow, chicken, fish, squid, rat...the list goes on and on
-The four holy animals are turtle, phoenix, dragon and unicorn (which is actually a kind of lion/dog)
-Everyone here tells me (Nancy) how beautiful my skin and eyes are. They are fascinated with pale skin and blue eyes