We arrived in Hanoi at 5.30 am, on time! Have to say it was the best nights sleep I’ve ever had, as it was a pretty rickety ride overnight, and the cabin was very warm. Seems like we were travelling in first class… So I have no idea how those in a lower class coped with the journey!
We were meet by our new driver fit the next few days, Mr Hung, and we went to our hotel. At 6am, our rooms weren’t ready so we had a shared day room to freshen up.
Ed and I had a wander around the hotel and had a hot Vietnamese coffee before meeting the group at 7.30 for breakfast. Phuong took us to a local place where the choice was (a huge) chicken it beef Pho…a local specialty.
The portions were huge, quite spicy, but very tasty… Not something we would usually eat so early. However, it only cost us about £1.30 each.
After this, we walked to a local coffee house which is also the meeting point for the Harley Davidson club, to have a coffee.
After a coffee we met out driver again and headed to the Ho Chi Minh memorial complex. Or first stop was to see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh… A very odd experience, but one that is clearly an important pilgrimage for some Vietnamese.
We then wandered around the palace complex and saw the old buildings of government, including some impressive French colonial ones!
There were lots of uniformed visitors, despite it being Sunday including older men and teenagers, ask in the dark green colours.
Next we went to the government offices on site and saw a range of HCM’s cars (Russian and French) before seeing the simple house on stilts where he lived after ‘retirement’ for the 11 years until his death in 1969.
A quick visit to the museum, filled with pictures of HCM’s travels, and promotion of the communist system, before we headed back to the hotel to check into our rooms.
We had just under an hour before meeting Phuong again for a simple lunch… as it turns out in a street cafe! It was pretty busy with locals and there weren’t enough tables so she simply fetched some more and ‘laid’ them out on the opposite street corner!
The lunch was delicious, and again there was no choice… Vermicelli with BBQ beef. The cost was less than 70p each.
After this we had a walk around one of the lakes and stopped for some refreshment on the way.
We regrouped at 5pm to walk around the old quarter, and the Hoan Kiem lake. Hanoi has a lovely feel about it and the streets were bustling with tourists and locals alike with architecture that is a mix of local and French influence.
We walked around the lake to the theatre where we were booked in to see the 6.30 pm water puppet show! The concept is one that is unique to Vietnam and originated in the paddy fields.
The show itself was interesting with puppets being controlled in the water from behind a curtain. The show was only 50 minutes long, and divided into 12 scenes, each depicting something different!
After the show Phuong met us and took us through the streets, which were even more bustling than before, to little Hanoi restaurant where we had a shared meal!
Finally we walked back towards our hotel through the night market and along some other busy streets. We got back at around 9 pm and were going to have a drink at the rooftop bar, except that it was closed, so we called it a night and went back to the room to catch up on our diaries and review the days pictures.