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Thursday, October 27, 2011

I've been so busy that this is going to be a brief summary of Hue to Hanoi simply to explain some of the photos.

Our Dragon Boat up the Perfume River was odd and ever so slow. The staff on board insisted on shoving touristy paraphernalia into the faces of anyone that didn’t blatantly ignore them.

The An Quang Pagoda perched high above the river echoed with sounds of monks praying and gongs ringing. Sienna robes peeped through windows as incense smoldered. 
A monk from this pagoda drove his car to Saigon years ago and then sat down in the lotus position before burning himself to death in protest against the Ngo Dinh Diem policies discriminating against Buddhists and violating religious freedom. 

At the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc we wandered amongst naked frangipani trees and extravagant crypts. Tu Duc it turns out had hundreds of porcupines but no children. We concluded that he must have been shooting blanks. Before his death, 16 years after he built his own tomb, he adopted a son and announced him to be the new emperor upon his death. The son only reigned for 7 months before being killed, he was 16 at the time.

An impressive vegetarian lunch was enjoyed at the orphanage we visited. 
Run by female monks it housed around 170 children of all ages. It is still very taboo for a child to be born out of wedlock in Vietnam, so babies are often dumped on the doorstep. We took plastic balls and pens for the children and left donations to assist in the running of the orphanage.

Then it was off to the incense and conical hat village before bussing it back to Hue for dinner.

We took the overnight train to Hanoi. 
Stained mattresses and spash-back toilets freaked some of the girls out. I opted for the squat toilet which drops straight onto the traintracks and due to the big hole leading directly outside, is always well ventilated.  
We arrived at 5am and headed off to the hotel where we shared day rooms until check in at noon. I slept for a good 2 hrs as I was absolutely exhausted. This tour has been non stop, hence the delay in my blogs.

Sitting on cushions on the floor for dinner at Highway 4, we excitedly perused the menu. Unfortunately the dinner didn’t go as well as we had anticipated. I won’t go into details but a highlight of the evening went something like this.

Tom (Vegetarian Englishman): "Are you sure these spring rolls are vegetarian? Is that chicken I can see in here?"

Waiter: “ No….No chicken in the begetarian spring rolls, only pork”

It turned out to be the first time Tom had eaten meat in years.

The next day we checked out The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum which was closed for some reason and Hỏa LÚ Prison, later sarcastically known to American prisoners of war as the 'Hanoi Hilton', was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam war. We continued on to check out old-mate 'Ho Chi Minh’s’ house and the one pillar pagoda which was unfortunately, but not surprising, overloaded with slow walking tourists.

Finally we were on our way to Halong Bay, the much awaited highlight of my journey. 
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