Escape to Hanoi 2

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights they close all the big roads around the lake in the centre of the city and it is full of people playing music, ballroom dancing, roller skating, zumba, young dance troops, street artists and a plethora of different activities.

It feels like the whole city are out and about in the middle of the big roads, eating and walking, chatting on benches it’s brilliant a real party atmosphere. There is a palpable feeling of enjoyment and freedom, people revelling in being out, tourists and locals, rich and poor alike having fun. It’s the hub of the city. There is also a walking market nearby and a street aptly named ‘beer street’ which is manic but good fun.

We have walked for miles and seen every museum in town. They are very inexpensive costing mostly about £1.50. The National History Museum had some very early artefacts 4000 years old and a good selection of items from every period in their history.

The revolutionary Museum had lots of interesting documents and pictures. We also went to the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’. The prison was built by the French in the 1880’s where they imprisoned the locals for plotting against them ( there is still a guillotine) and latterly the captured American pilots which they say they looked after better than their own people!

The language they use in the museums is extraordinary. Everything is ‘imperialist puppet soldiers’, ‘colonial terrorists’, ‘oppressors’, ‘the struggle for national independence with the struggle for the rights of the masses oppressed by the exploiters and the feudals’. Ho Chi Minh said that he wanted to combine the patriotic feelings of the people with the need for freedom from social exploitation. As communist leaders go I think he was ahead of his time and an honourable man, well travelled and intelligent. The propaganda machine was in full swing. It makes for very interesting reading.

There is a railway line which runs right through the middle of the city. People live alarmingly close to it and kids play between the tracks and cafes sell food, when the trains come they pick up the tables, kids and anything else. They are now stopping the trains in the day and they only run after 7pm and not at the weekends. They also stop tourists from wandering aimlessly along the tracks and police guard the lines.

We walked from train street to see Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum which is a huge impressive building on an enormous piece of land guarded by ultra strict soldiers in white uniforms with big guns.

They open the tomb for a short time every year and the queues are miles long. It’s very different to the beautiful French Colonial styles that surround it. In the grounds is a one pillar pagoda and a beautiful small temple, it’s a real mix of cultures and styles, old and new.

Because of the French influence they have great bread and patisseries, baguettes they fill with pate and pulled pork, coriander, cucumber, peanuts , veggies and a couple of sauces the bread warm and crusty they are called Banh Mi and are delicious.

Their national soup Pho has rice noodles, beef and greenery, flavoured with ginger, coriander and slivers of spring onions is also very good and is eaten anytime of the day.

Along with translucent spring rolls, barbecued meats and many variations of noodle dishes the food is great and if you want to eat like a local you sit on the tiny stools on the pavement and eat. It’s very cheap. There are plenty of high end restaurants and lots of choice if you want a full sized chair…

They have a strange thing in Vietnam. People ride round on push bikes that have a recorded message blasting out. There is a woman who does a big loop around the hotel late at night, just as you’re dropping off to sleep, every night and it sounds like ‘I’m so alive’, (it obviously isn’t). She doesn’t appear to be selling anything but to be honest if she doesn’t find another route soon she won’t be alive for long….deep breaths, be mindful…

On our last night there was a huge free concert with bands playing and great music, the crowd were up for partying. It was a fantastic ending for our trip.

We enjoyed Hanoi, it’s chaotic, not very clean but the people are friendly. The sights and smells, the traffic and just the rhythm of life in Hanoi is exciting. It’s more edgy than Thailand you have to be careful with your belongings and be a bit more street wise, some traders will try and charge you more if they can and the money all looks the same, it is easy to get mixed up. If you go in January take warm clothes it can be cool in the evenings but it’s perfect for walking around the city. Having said all that we will definitely return and want to see a lot more of the country.

2 thoughts on “Escape to Hanoi 2

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