North and South of the River
Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
92Trip End Aug 27, 2010
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Where I stayed
April Fools day is of course also Derek's birthday, but rather than let the birthday boy lie in we were up and out pretty early to visit "Uncle Ho", the father of Vietnamese independence and reunification (although the North & South finally reunified several years after his death). Although a communist, he was more of an idealist and in his leadership he did not seem to abuse the position unlike a few other tyrants one could mention
With Uncle Ho visited we spent a short while in the surrounding grounds of the mausoleum before strolling over to the Presidential Palace and Stilt House, Uncle Ho’s final two residences. HCM lived in the Presidential Palace from 1954-58 before deciding to move into the stilt house and live a more simple existence like the ordinary people of Vietnam. Final stop in the Ho Chi Minh complex was the museum, an interesting and informative visit, but was preceded by an amusing encounter with a Vietnamese “student”
We returned to the hotel where they presented Derek with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for his birthday (aah, how sweet). When traveling like this one tends to accumulate “stuff” and we had plans to mail a box back home so we spent a fun afternoon browsing the backstreets and markets and managed to pick up a few more odds and ends that we wanted. Wandering through the streets anywhere in Vietnam is entertainment in itself; from the interesting storefronts to the hawkers with their wares draped across their shoulders; from the chaos of traffic to the sidewalks which (in Hanoi) seem to have transformed into motorcycle parking lots. Prize for craziest motorcycle cargo was awarded this time to the guy carrying a mattress while on his scooter! (See fuzzy photo below). With our shopping done (including two obligatory traditional Vietnamese cone hats) we returned to the hotel to abandon our acquisitions and head out to celebrate the benefits of old age
As many of you are aware, Sarah’s birthday is the day after Derek’s and is often celebrated with a thick head….however, with stuff to get sorted, it was fortunate that this year was pretty mild. We checked out of our hotel and with bags stowed there until later set off with a list of errands including flight confirmations, a visit to the post office to mail our SE Asia souvenirs back home and a search for the fifth Harry Potter book in English. Flights turned out to be fine, the postal service was top notch (US Postal Service take note), though with a possible 3-5 months delivery time we might make it home before our stuff does, and alas the search for the fifth Harry Potter continues. It might be easier to teach Lauren Vietnamese than to find the fifth book in English!
We returned to Little Hanoi for dinner and had another great meal, before a final stroll through the old quarter back to the hotel. We collected our bags and were soon airport bound for our first flight in almost a month! Tokyo here we come….