Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hanoi & New Friends

We've been in Hanoi for a few days and have had the most wonderful experience from the moment we got off the bus! We found our Hanoi hotel through the place we stayed in Hue - the two women who owned our hotel in Hue were very friendly and helpful, and they told the owners in Hanoi to look after us!

First, they had a transfer included from bus to the hotel, which is always super convenient when arriving off a 13 hour bus overnight bus. Second, the hotel owner in Hanoi (named Zue) introduced us to his family, and we went grocery shopping with his cousin Zum (in the white shirt) and Peo.  I'm definitely spelling their names wrong. The women were very sweet and we walked to the market to buy ingredients for spring rolls, which we helped them make! Sadly, all the spring roll photos are on YD's phone, but I do have some pics from the market.

Buying pork for the spring rolls

Cow heart - not for spring rolls! Awesome to see just laying around though...

Peo and Zum buying veggies 
We went to the Prison Museum where we saw Senator John McCain's pilot outfit from the Vietnam War - they kept his personal belongings and have a whole section on the American POW's they kept from 1967-1973. Before this, the prison held over 1,000 prisoners from the 1880s to the 1960s during the French occupation of Vietnam (I think my dates are pretty correct). The museum was chilling and informative and interesting, and did a great job of portraying what conditions were like for the Vietnamese prisoners during the French rule (awful) and during the Vietnam War (surprisingly good for American soldiers). However, it also seems like that prison was selectively upgraded for foreign correspondents and interviews with American POWs, since I can't believe that many other American POWs were treated that well - with Christmas celebrations, adequate food, lots of medication, etc... but I would need to read more about the Vietnam War to really get a sense of this.

Chilling display of prisoners in ankle cuffs

John McCain's personal effects from when his plane fell

We had some delicious local food for lunch - pork rib, morning glory, and Bia Ha Noi (Beer Hanoi), which is about 25 cents per glass. We were the only foreigners there, and communicated mostly through pointing and shrugging. It was a great meal :)

We also went to the Army Museum and saw LOTS of tanks, planes, missiles, and photographs from 1000 AD through to the last several years of peace accords. The museum isn't very well organized in terms of chronology or material, but there is a wealth of information if you're patient and willing to read many small captions.  I enjoyed it a lot.
War. AH.

We got horribly lost walking home from the Army museum - somehow we went completely the wrong direction and ended up passing through a space-time wormhole. Even after looking at a map, we're not sure how we ended up going the absolutely incorrect direction, but it ended up taking us through beautiful parts of Hanoi.  And through the kindness of strangers, including a young man walking us down 4 streets to show us the right way back, we ended up making it back to our hotel.

We are about to embark on a 3d/2n trip to Ha Long Bay.  We'll kayak, bike, spend a night on a boat and in a bungalow, and see some gorgeous limestone cliffs.  I can't wait! Aftewards, we come back to Hanoi for one night and then we'll trek around 25 miles through Sapa during a 4d/3n trip.  If you don't hear from me for awhile, it's because I'm too busy enjoying the beauty of northern Vietnam! 

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