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Linda's Vietnam Blog: Part Six

Hanoi City Tour

We were met at the front of the hotel by four jeeps and two Ural motorbikes with sidecars and our guide, Twan. They caused quite a stir with lots of photos being taken.

The first stop on the tour was the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. It had been arranged that we purchase a wreath from the group. This meant that we came through the VIP gate usually only used for officials. We had one of the military officers in full uniform escort us, and at the entrance two other military officers presented the wreath for us.

In single file we quietly walked through the mausoleum with Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body displayed. There were fully uniformed military personnel on each corner and also another four standing watch making sure you kept quiet and kept moving. I did not actually expect to see his body, rather just a coffin. It was an incredible moment. Ho Chi Minh died 50 years ago this month on 2 Sept. This is also the day they announced independence at Ba Đình Square on 2 September 1945.

We also visited the One Pillar Pagoda which is just outside of the mausoleum.

Down some small alleys and we arrived at Huu Tiep Lake where on December 27, 1972 a US with B-52 bomber was knocked from the sky in a bombing raid. Part of it ended up in the lake where it still lies like a war trophy.

At the Military museum we watched a movie on the battle of Dien Bien Phu which effectively ended the eight year old war with the French.

The Flag Tower of Hanoi overlooks the museum which has a history of the many invaders the Vietnamese have fought off over the centuries. The tower was built in 1812 in the Nguyen dynasty as an observation post to the Hanoi citadel.

After an iced coffee or cool drink, we were off to Hỏa Lò Prison which was a prison used by the French colonists in French Indochina for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for U.S. prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. During this later period, it was known to American POWs as the Hanoi Hilton.

The final stop was lunch at Bún Chả Hương Liên restaurant made famous after it was visited by Obama and Anthony Bourdain. We had the Obama combo of a fried seafood roll and Bun Cha a delicious noddle soup with barbeque pork in an amazing sweet broth, and a beer. My kind of combo. The noodle soup is the favourite thing I have eaten so far.

We said goodbye to Twan and our drivers at the hotel and the rest of the day as free to get ready to hit the road tomorrow.

We had a briefing on the next phase of our adventure which involves picking up the jeeps and navigating our way to out of the city into the hills of the north. Paperwork was signed, two way radios handed out and questions asked, then we headed off across town for a buffet dinner at Khai’s Brothers. It was hard to not go back for thirds!

Yen handed over all our Vietnamese drivers licenses. Whew, always nervous that they would be issued on time, but no worries!

I rode on Cuong’s postie bike again through some crazy traffic. The mid-Autumn festival activities continue until the weekend. I am looking forward to the slower pace that is promised north of the city in the hills. Time to get out of the big smoke.

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