Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hanoi, Vietnam--Term in Asia 2009

Today is our last day in Hanoi, Vietnam. We had a late flight into the city on Saturday from Siem Reap, Cambodia. After stepping off the plane, we knew we were in for some extreme humidity. Even with the sun gone, it felt hot and sticky.
Sunday we toured the city. Our first stop was to see Ho Chi Mihn. His real body still lies in a mausoleum. Though the country does not have a religion, they still have found someone to believe in. Ho Chi Mihn did not request this, rather he had asked for a normal burial. But as most people need faith in something, the majority of Vietnamese people have hope in Ho Chi Mihn. Around the mausoleum we saw his home and some of the French royal family homes.
Our next stop was the prison. Maison Centrale prison, or Hoa Lo, was built by the French in order to cope with the Vietnamese struggle movements. It had held many leaders of the government and Vietnam Communist Party, along with other revolutionary patriotic soldiers. Today it exists as a monument for the soldiers who lay down their life in the prison for independence and freedom of Vietnam.
After learning some of the city history, we each got a ride through the market on bike taxis. The market had sections of everything. More shoes than I have ever seen, raw and live meat, fresh produce, bags, and so on. Our guide said anything you can find in America, you can know find in Hanoi.
For lunch, our guide showed us to a local Vietnamese restaurant, not a tourist spot Vietnamese restaurant. Though Vietnamese has not been our favorite foreign food, it was good quality and very, very inexpensive.
On the way back to the hotel for a well needed break from the humidity, we walked half way around the lake were John McCain was shot down and rescued by a unknown Vietnamese.
After our break, we went to the oldest university in Vietnam. It was a large and beautiful campus. Many classic scholars are respected at the site, including Confucius. Another interesting point was that the names of graduates were written on tablets on top of turtles. The turtles represented good luck for the exams. Many of the graduates then worked for the king.
Finally we had an air conditioned activity. We went to see a water puppet show. It was very well done. The stage had a pond like center where from behind a curtain actors controlled puppets by sticks and stings horizontally. Actors also came out front to play with the puppets in the show.
Even after a long and exhausting day, we came back and wondered the Old French Courters area in curiosity and search of food.
Yesterday, Monday, we took a long, but well worth it, drive to Ha Long Bay. It was unbelievable; it was gorgeous. Though the morning started with harsh rains, our afternoon out on our private boat was wonderful. On our way out of the harbor we were served a fresh seafood lunch of crab, shrimps, and fish.
It had warmed up and was sunny, so the captain found us a private area where we jumped from the roof of the boat, about 12 feet up, though we had to look out for the jellyfish. We were timid at first to jump, each of us our hearts racing, but eventually each of us did. Some even conquered their fears of heights and lack of knowing how to swim. But even they can say it was worth it. The water was so salty. With mouths closed, it still tasted like a spoonful of salt. And we all successfully avoided the jellyfish. Into a setting sun and through mountainous peaks, we ended our holiday cruise on Ha Long Bay.
Today is our last day in Hanoi, and our free day here. Tomorrow we fly to Ho Chi Mihn, our final stop in Asia.
Annika

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