Weird stuff in Hanoi-BBQ dog and Uncle Ho
Trip Start Jan 15, 2010
36Trip End Nov 09, 2010
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One of the first things we noticed about Hanoi is that it is still a communist country. There are propaganda posters and hammer and sickle flags everywhere. Ho Chi Minh (Uncle Ho) is considered a saint
The first morning, Jeff got up really early and went out to walk around the lake. He came back full of energy and very excited about what he had seen. All of Hanoi, young and old, go to the lake for their daily exercise. He had photos of ladies dancing with fans, doing Tai Chi, men playing some sort of foot badminton and doing whatever else--all around 6am before the speakers started blaring the “get to work” messages! Half the people were still in what looked like their pajamas! There was even a young girl selling live baby chickens she had strung together. Life in Hanoi starts early!
Later that day we went to the Hoa Lo Prison museum which was ironically dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by the US soldiers who were kept there. This was actually a French prison used during the 1800’s to punish Vietnamese Revolutionaries and had some pretty gruesome photos of how they were treated. This was not an exhibit flattering to the French occupation of Vietnam…which was in sharp contrast to the small exhibit about the American soldiers. They presented the captured American soldiers as beneficiaries of a “lenient and generous policy by affording them a normal life in the detention camps…” This was accompanied by photos of them playing sports, getting gifts, having a big Christmas dinner and being treated better than any of their own Vietnamese people. It was very strange, and I’m sure this description will incite anger in some of our readers. I should say now that while we did see a lot of reproductions of anti-American propaganda posters in the galleries (I confess those made my stomach turn), no one treated us badly-in fact all of the people we spoke to were friendly, many had learned English from American teachers and they wanted to know about life in America and wanted to visit America.
For us, one of the most exciting parts of all this traveling is trying the different foods
That evening we went to a uniquely Hanoi experience --a water puppet show. The water puppets are a quirky tourist attraction that has roots from thousands of years ago and is probably still utilized in some villages today. It is about entertaining yourself while working in the wet rice paddies. We watched both an indoor version and outdoor version, both situated on a pond. The puppets are on sticks that jut straight out into the water (not from above as we are used to) and the puppeteers are behind a curtain standing in the water. There is a band and singers singing the stories of the great lion dance, dragon dance, and scenes from village life, such as fishing. It was pretty silly and of course we couldn’t understand any of the words, but entertaining nonetheless!
The next morning we had signed up for a city tour--we decided that would be the most time efficient way to see the highlights of Hanoi since we didn’t have much time
The highlight (morbid!) of the city tour was the viewing of Uncle Ho’s mausoleum. We had to “dress appropriately” (long pants and covered shoulders) as if we were going to a sacred place. We had to wait in line for about an hour (and this was the “tourist line”, which was short compared to the line the Vietnamese were standing in). Then we went into the bulky, dark granite, soviet style building to see Uncle Ho embalmed in a glass casket. There were many guards, all hushing everyone, and you could tell this was a very sacred place to them. He looked like a wax model, but not shiny. It was… well….weird.