As the train pulled up in Hanoi all we could see out of the window were people dressed in puffa jackets, winter hats and scarves huddled up on the platform! Our hearts sank! We found a taxi who took us to a hotel, we checked in and guess what we did? We turned the heating on! Nipped out for something to eat at a little café that we have since eaten in everyday at some point! No more ice coffees for us, we even asked for the milk to be hot to put in them! I think we walked around for about an hour that day before the cold had got to our toes too much (still wearing flip flops as I have no other shoes) and we went back to the hotel for a sleep, again the night on the train hadn’t been the best sleep ever (but defiantly better than the bus!)
That evening we had planned to go out and watch the football (Liverpool played Brighton and trashed them 6-1, see I do take an interest!!!!) but as we’ve found in Vietnam apart form Ho Chi Minh city everywhere seems to have an 11pm curfew plus it was cold out so we got a few beers and watched it in bed, again with the heating on!!!
On Monday morning we went to the Hoa Lo Prison Museum. The prison dates back to the late 1800’s built when the French colonised Vietnam to hold and punish “political prisoner’s” (Vietnamese people who didn’t want to be under the control of the French). They even had an area in the prison where children were kept with their mothers. Many people were executed here and the guillotine used is on show, mister Alex spoke for both of us when he said, “just looking at it makes me feel uneasy”. Once the French had left Vietnam the prison was used by the Vietnamese to hold American prisoners of war during the Vietnamese War. The museum was quite keen to show how well the American soldier’s were treated showing pictures of the men playing basket ball in the yard, however we wondered how biased this actually was as the prison was sarcastically referred to as the Hanoi Hilton by the POWs.
Monday afternoon and yesterday we spent walking the streets. Everywhere is so hustle and bustle, each street looking like the last with people squatting on little stools snuggled in their puffa jackets eating soup and noodles cooked on a stove in the street. There’s the butchers that just consists of a small bench covered in meat on the corner. The women selling fruit and veg from contraptions that look like big woven scales over their shoulders, chickens in the middle of the street, propaganda shops, crabs and fish waiting to be picked for diner in washing up bowls, it’s organised chaos. On Monday afternoon we had a coffee in a café set high up so we could look over and watch the traffic and hustle below. Despite Hanoi being the capital of Vietnam it’s feel is so different to Ho Chi Minh in the south.
Yesterday we decided to join the locals- squatted on the stools in the street in front of the cathedral and ordered a coffee and some seeds we had seen all the locals eating while chatting. The ground was covered in the casings of the seeds flicked and spat out. The seeds were lovely but the coffee was soooo strong mister Alex had to finish mine for me! We then went for a run/people dodge round the lake yesterday evening, I think all the fumes and pollution by the number of traffic and bikes got to my chest, bring on the sea air again!
This morning we got up early, 7am, to go and see Ho Chi Minh himself. He’s been preserved and is open to view from 8.30am until 10.30am everyday. We were meant to go yesterday but neither of us could get to sleep so at about 1am we turned off the alarm and then obviously slept in! We qued for about 15 minutes before getting in to the building where he is. I’ve got to say he looked really good to say he’s been dead a few years, just like the pictures we’ve seen of him. He does go to Russia every year for 3 months for work but they obviously do a really good job! We walked round him in silence, he’s very well looked after and guarded, I was quite pleased when we left as all the guards with guns and bayonets were giving me the heebie jeebies!
As I write this I’m sat at our regular café with yet another cup of hot coffee, wearing the same outfit I’ve worn for the past 3 days (we only had one set of warm clothes apart from the jogging bottoms I wore to sleep in on the train and overnight bus we did last week!). So when you look at the photos on facebook no we didn’t just take photos on one day- we are just scruffbags in the same clothes ever day!!! Anyway we are out of here in 3 hours, we have a flight booked to Vientiane in Laos (the normal backpacker route is by a 30 hour bus ride however everyone we have spoken to who has done this has a horror story or 2 to tell so we thought the flights are going to be well worth it). We’ve checked the weather forecast and we should be back into our shorts by the morning, at least I hope so as I feel we are starting to smell!
Despite not being our favourite country we have enjoyed Vietnam, escaped without anything untoward happening to us and have enjoyed experiencing another country. We’re just looking forward to Laos and then back into Thailand where we can get back on the spicy curries!!!