Trip Start Nov 29, 2008
Trip End Jan 18, 2009

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Where I stayed
Hong Ngoc Hotel Ma May

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, December 29, 2008

Arriving in Hanoi at 5:00 in the morning was a bit painful, but I managed to catch a nap for a few hours in the hotel room before starting our big day at 10:00 am. First stop was the ethnology museum, by far the nicest museum I've seen on this trip. The displays were very nice, but the special part was the collection of tribal houses on the grounds.

After the ethnology museum, we had lunch at KOTO before taking in the water puppet theater. It was quite enjoyable, even if the seats had about 5 inches less legroom than an economy class airline seat.

That night, we welcomed the new group with dinner at a small restaurant near the hotel. Our guide had warned us not to be on the streets that night, because Vietnam was playing Thailand for the final in the AFF cup. We caught the end of the game back at our hotel room--Vietnam scored four minutes into the stoppage time to take the title and the city went nuts. We cautiously ventured out of the hotel to watch the celebrations--mainly people buzzing down the streets on motorcycles wearing Vietnamese flags as capes and honking wildly.

The next morning began with a trip to the infamous "Hanoi Hilton." Our guide Hai warned us before going in that the place was bugged, so we should watch ourselves and reserve any questions for afterward on the bus. Nothing like good old-fashioned communist paranoia. Our next stop was Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, and then his house where he stayed and worked during the war.

We finished the day's tour with two of the most historical sights in the city--the One Pillar Pagoda, built nearly 1000 years ago, but sadly destroyed by the French upon their departure in 1954; and the Temple of Literature, founded in 1070.

Since this was the end of the first part of the tour, we had our farewell dinner that night for our three departing members. Next morning we were off to Halong Bay!
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