The weather was gorgeous while we were there. Each day was sunny, with temperatures in the mid- to upper 60s.
|On top of the trains at the Hanoi train station.|
|A wall of murals that spanned almost the entire length of the highway on our way to our hotel.|
|The wall also had carvings.|
|A cheerful mural scene.|
The staff and manager were very taken with our son, joking with him that they wanted him to stay at the hotel with them instead of coming home with us. I had mentioned in a previous post that we, as a family, and my son as an individual, received many more curious looks and much more attention in Vietnam than in Thailand. Well, in Hanoi, the attention directed to my son became more frequent and more obvious. People we passed on the streets, and shopkeepers sitting outside, would stop us to look at him, touch his cheeks, pat him on the head, shake his hand, or ask for a high five from him. One shopkeeper, whose store we were browsing in, kept saying things to us like "Lovely boy!" "He's so fun!" or "I love him!" It was awkward as I knew they were well-intentioned and harmless, but my sense of boundary was obviously much stronger than theirs.
|Our hotel towering over adjacent buildings.|
|Front of the hotel, all decked out for the holidays.|
|Lobby. There were so many doormen that we didn't need to lift a finger going in and out of the building and the elevators. I joked that the only things they didn't do for us were feeding and toileting us.|
|View of Hanoi from our hotel room window.|
|View from the hotel's rooftop restaurant.|
|Another view from the rooftop restaurant.|
|A switch instead of a sign on the door knob to notify the maid to clean the room.|
|A view of a side street from our hotel room that I managed to capture by sticking my camera out of the small opening in the window.|
Nevertheless, I grew fond of this city. There was a number of cute cafes to hang out and watch people, lots of bakeries, so many different really good Vietnamese restaurants, and lots of restaurants serving cuisines from other countries. There were so many options, unlike where we live in Bangkok. We stuffed ourselves with all kinds of Vietnamese food and more western food in the two weeks of our trip than in five months of living in Thailand. Western food there, while more expensive than the local cuisine, was still cheaper than it is in Bangkok. Best of all, they had amazing coffee (which I don't drink, but my husband bought some weasel coffee to bring back here), teas, and pastries. Each morning, we had more than our fill of croissants, danishes, cheeses, and breakfast meats. The people were much more relaxed than in Ho Chi Minh City, and didn't bother us much. The driving also was slower and seemed safer than in Bangkok.
We walked throughout the city and explored it every day. It was fantastic how easily we could get around. We must've walked at least two miles each day. Needless to say, we all slept well! Our hotel was right on the border of the Old Quarter, so we had a chance to explore that part of Hanoi in detail. We also went to modern areas and visited various historic sites. We had a fabulous stay there.
Some random sights of the city:
|A huge market, similar to the one we visited in Ho Chi Minh City.|
|Streets at night.|
|The streets and shops are always busy, no matter what time of the day it is, just like in Bangkok. I'm so curious about what people do for a living that they can just stroll and browse or hang out in cafes all day long!|
|A random temple we came upon during our stroll.|
|Apartment buildings in the center of Hanoi.|
|Masks for sale.|
|KFC in Vietnamese.|
|A wall of beautiful fans in a shop.|
|A random game of badminton at a sidewalk.|
|Hilarious cafe name.|
|Another funnily named restaurant.|
|Scorpio whiskey. It's been decades since I've seen these.|
|Can you guess what the name of this cafe is?|
|I really wish we had room in our suitcases to bring home a poster from this place!|
|This street only had stores related to stereo equipment.|
|Chat & Date cafe!|
|I loved all the colors in some of the shops.|
|So that's how they install a new water tank in the upper story of a building!|
|K-Mart CVS...Doubt it's similar to either store in the U.S.|
|Notice the closing time of this place...Not helpful.|
|This is the grilled fish. The waitress added greens to the grilled fish (which was delicious, frying in oil as we ate) and let it cook for a few minutes.|
|Getting our Korean food fix in Hanoi.|
|An awesome restaurant that was so good we went for dinner there two nights in a row.|
|Simmered pork in a clay pot that we had at the restaurant above.|
|The dish that brought us back for two nights in a row: Braised eggplant in garlic sauce.|
On Jade Island of the lake stood Temple of the Jade Mountain, which can be accessed via a red, wooden bridge called The Huc Bridge.
A monument to Le Loi by the lake that we happened upon.
We also got to see a water puppet show at the water puppet theater. There was a band of musicians that played and sang traditional Vietnamese music to accompany the show. On the stage, where the floor would've been, was the pool of water where the puppets were performed. At the end of the show, all the puppeteers came out in the water for applause. There also was an exhibit of old water puppets outside the auditorium. Audience members had to pay to take pictures or videos during the show, but no one paid and everyone's cameras were clicking away. It was probably another scam to get more money out of those who didn't know better.
The Temple of Literature, which is a temple of Confucius built in 1070 and was the site of Vietnam's first national university. The university was established in 1076 and remained open until 1779. The compound is comprised of five courtyards with temples, gates, gardens, ponds, and turtle steles with the names of students who were successful at the royal exams.
|People were tracing their names on this board for good luck, so we did it too.|
The Museum of Fine Arts is a beautiful building housing art, stone sculptures, furniture, costumes, paintings, and artifacts that go back as far as the Iron and Bronze ages.
We walked by the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, but didn't go in...Just had no desire to see the dead body of a dictator, for some reason. The grounds of the mausoleum was huge and beautiful. People were strolling about, enjoying the weather, as if it were just a regular, old park. There was a map of the grounds. We thought it was funny that there was a garage housing Ho Chi Minh's used cars. Also, I wonder what a gift shop of a dictator's mausoleum sells....
We also visited another Buddhist temple, called One Pillar Pagoda, near the mausoleum.
Our last stop in Hanoi was Hoa Lo Prison (a.k.a. "Hanoi Hilton"), where John McCain was held as prisoner during the Vietnam War. Built by the French in the 1800s, it was originally intended to hold Vietnamese political prisoners agitating for independence.
Now it's been transformed into a museum. There was very little about the Vietnam War in the museum, and what little there was consisted of anti-American propaganda. Even as a museum, it could be distressing to walk through. Before going there, my son was very anxious about the visit, worrying about "bad guys with guns" and being locked in the prison. We told him it was now a museum and was safe, and gave him a choice not to go, but he still chose to go. In the end, he was more fascinated than anything else.
|Glass shards to prevent escape.|
|A model of the original compound.|
|The bottom picture is a picture of the prison bathroom.|
|Stones used to build the prison.|
|The doors to the prison.|
|Bricks used by the French to build the prison.|
|Description of food for the prisoners.|
|Bowls used by prisoners.|
|Female political prisoners.|
|This was what a prison cell looked like. The dummies as prisoners were jarring and creepy.|
|All the prisoners were shackled by the ankles.|
|The creepiest stairwell I've ever seen by far.|
|A tale of escape by Vietnamese political prisoners and the piece of sewer through which they escaped.|
|Toilet for the prisoners.|
|Lists of the names of the political prisoners held at the prison.|
|A memorial commemorating Vietnamese political prisoners.|