All in the Family: Meet the Dats and Uncle Ho
Trip Start Mar 11, 2006
45Trip End Aug 01, 2006
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We met Dat back at the cafe at 8AM to take him up on his invite to meet his family in his village 15km outside Hanoi. Not able to convince him that motorbikes were a smashing idea again, we boarded a series of public buses that took a bit longer but on which we got to meet and talk with all kinds of locals that we'd not otherwise know. Dat's mama was cooking up a storm when we arrived that we shared on a bamboo mat on the floor of the living room
Dat took us back into Hanoi and to the Museum of Ethnology, where we had volunteered as a guide for a few years to improve his English. The Viet people are the vast majority in the nation, but 40+ ethnic groups abound and we saw real traditional massive and beautiful houses transported to the grounds as well as the famous water-puppet show. It is Dat's favorite place, he even goes there now on days that he's not leading tours just to hang out, though I believe he secretly is just trying to master getting across that crazy rope highwire bridge without falling over.
With one more night in Hanoi, we hung out for a while at the cafe and started on the scorpion wine we bought (two real scorpions and assorted spices and grasses floating inside ... would have gone for the cobra version instead but just too big of a bottle to handle) with an American fella names Rillo who's been travelling for three years, going on five. It was interesting to peak with him because we've met very few Americans while travelling, averaging maybe one a week
We had a final brief excursion the next morning to see Ho Chi Minh who is preserved on display in a very nice mausoleum, or in the spirit of my bad China Mao-soleum joke, a mau-Ho-leum. I don't know what Lenin's will be referred to as, but I'm pretty sure jokes are not made in Russia anyhow. (Editor's note: as of this writing in St. Petersburg, Lenin remains stubbornly the only unvisited member of the dead-guys-on-display tour, not from lack of effort ... more later) Ho Chi Minh is affectionately called "Uncle Ho" by the Hanoians, a stark change to the whispered almost resentment we heard from many about Mao in China. The folks in Hanoi are also very proud of their history, I was informed multiple times that the city will be celebrating its 1,000th anniversary in 2010. Ushered through the viewing room (he looked peaceful), we spent a good while just trying to leave the grounds with guards in turn pointing to every different direction that we'd just come from and blocking its opposite, and finally caught a taxi to the airport. It was certainly one of the strangest airport I've ever seen: while in most airports space is at a premium, the international airport of this country's capitol was sparsely commercialized, with nice smooth space left wide open inside that a roller hockey player would die for
Moral of the story: I promised Dat I'd help him find an American girlfriend. Ladies: one charming, handsome, multilingual motorcycle is yours for the taking, just let me know ...
Seriously, kind of.