Dining out at the many street vendors might have taken up a fair bit of our time but we also visited a handful of Hanoi’s sightseeing attractions starting off with Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This was the only time I used a motorbike as opposed to all those years ago in HCMC when I used them all the time. The reason for limited use this time is that Hanoi is a small place which is easy to navigate on foot with a good map. The lines were super-long for this place but they did move fairly swiftly and though no visible reaction could be seen from the locals when we saw Ho Chi Minh’s body lying there it did make the heart of the Vietnamese guy I was with (below) beat fast and was really moving for him.
The Presidential Palace and the house where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954 to 1958 are below.
Due to its strange opening hours I didn’t have time to see the Ho Chi Minh Museum so walked on a few blocks to the Temple of Literature (below) which was a pleasant enough place but for someone living in Japan and surrounded by temples it wasn’t anything too new or interesting for me.
The next two places were more up my street but all-in-all quite a dark reflection on Vietnam’s history. First up was the Vietnam Military History Museum which displays hundreds of objects, photos and most impressively a vast collection of weaponry including tanks, jet fighters and other such military vehicles as seen below.
After that was what remains of the Hoa Lo Prison (a.k.a. the “Hanoi Hilton”) which was built by the French in the late 19th century and houses some rather gruesome exhibits and photographs such as the ones seen below.
The Municipal Water Puppet Theatre was the setting for some early evening entertainment one evening as we saw a 45 minute water puppet performance. This show was novel and fun and featured about ten acts depicting pastoral scenes and legends. The final scene was particularly interesting as we got to see the people quite literally pulling the strings come out to give the audience an idea of how exactly this ancient art form works. The band playing the accompanying music also added a nice bit of ethnic authenticity to the occasion.
The old Long Bien Bridge was recommended by a friend as something to see in an interesting-but-certainly-not-essential type way. Located in the north-east of the city it is only for pedestrians, motorcyclists and the the train which crosses it. It’s certainly not for those with a fear of heights as you can see beneath you the whole time as the rusting old bring reverberates around you as the traffic passes over it.
Hoan Kiem Lake is the focal point of old Hanoi and a nice place to walk around but not quite as interesting as some people make out. The Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) on an islet looks very impressive and Ngoc Son Temple on an island at the other end of the lake is nothing special but helped eat up a bit of time.
Didn’t know where to put the picture above so I have included it here as this is what Vietnam is all about! Of course the pointy hats are ultra famous but these huge scale-type things which street vendors walk around carrying are a common sight too. This particular one got a good deal from me as I wanted my tourist photo and boy did she want me to cough up some hard cash after that for pineapple but I didn’t fall for that scam. Still, she got a reasonably good price for the fruit and the picture.