Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is a hustling, bustling city. I hope I don't get in trouble for saying this, but it was probably my least favorite city in Vietnam. Maybe we had been in Vietnam for too long (World Cup matches at 3am led to late starts and extra days), and the relentless street hawkers were just getting to me. Maybe it was the overcrowded sidewalks, forcing you to walk in the street next to motorcycles honking their loud horns and zooming past you. Maybe it was the multiple encounters with travel agents that tried to screw us over.* Or maybe it was the fact that our trip to Halong Bay got cancelled by a typhoon. 

I definitely appreciated the history of this city and learned a bunch about communism and the Vietnam War here, but for anyone planning a visit to Hanoi, I would recommend spending just a day or two to see the sights (namely the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and HCM museum) and then booking it to Halong Bay or Sapa. 

*After a couple of bad experiences where everything went pear-shaped when we asked the agent to write a few more details on our receipt (and thus confirming them), we found Ocean Sun Tours on Dinh Liet Street who we were very happy with.

Here are some photos from our time in Vietnam's capital. 

{One of the most memorable parts of Hanoi was visiting Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum. In the same fashion as other famous communist leaders (Stalin and Lenin) in Russia, Vietnam has decided to immortalize Ho Chi Minh as much as possible and put his slowly decaying body on display for all to see- under, of course, the tightest of security and the strict rule of no cameras allowed. It's a simple structure that allows you to walk in a U-shape around Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body lying in a glass case. A summary of my thoughts? Freaky to see a dead body and even freakier that these people respect Ho Chi Minh so much.}

{Entrance to the Ho Chi Minh Museum}

{Hoa Lo Prison, also know as "Hilton Hanoi" where several US prisoners or war were detained during the Vietnam War, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).}

{We stayed in the Old Quarter which is filled with character, overcrowded power lines, and shop after shop that overflows onto the sidewalk.}

{Tran Quoc Pagoda, located on West Lake}

{Lenin Park, a popular place for locals to relax and play sports at the end of each day.}

{We came upon this man meditating on one of the coolest trees I've ever seen.}

{Exploring the Temple of Literature}

{Bradford found the Hanoi Stock Exchange, which was such an ironic sight in a communist country. Over the years, communism has proven ineffective in growing a successful economy and thus reforms have been made to support growth of private enterprises.}

{St. Joseph's Cathedral}

And now, a teaser for the next post. Below is the view of Hanoi on the day we were supposed to go to Halong Bay (cue sniffles).

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