Arrived back to hanoi on the night train from Sapa at 4:30 in the morning. On the way into hanoi i could see the markets opening and the city coming alive.
There was suppose to be a staff person from the hotel waiting for me at the train station Among the hundreds of people getting off the train, dozens of taxi drivers trying to get you to take their cab and the hawkers trying to sell you something it was quite overwhelming after very little sleep. I could not see a staff person from my hotel so after about 15 minutes I decided to take a cab. There are only 3 cab companies one should use in Hanoi because the rest will cheat tourists. One of the drawbacks of traveling alone is that it is difficult at 4:30 in the morning to run around with a bag and a backpack to look at all the names on the cabs to ensure you get the right one. I opted to take a cab with a meter as I thought that would be ok. NOT. That meter was going faster than I could blink, I told the driver the street of the hotel so he did not take me all over Hanoi. However the meter really sped up when we got to the street my hotel was on and you have to remember it is 4:30 am and no traffic. The meter went so fast I could barely read the numbers ( ok maybe a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point). When I got to the hotel he wanted to charge me $17 for a ride that should have cost $5. I saw the doorman coming out of the hotel and knew they would pay for the cab. So I told him I think this guy is trying to cheat me. The hotel staff quickly ushered me into the hotel and a loud argument ensued between the hotel staff and the driver. The driver then came into the hotel lobby shouting so I was escorted to my room and told later that the driver was cheating me and the hotel would not pay his inflated price. They gave me a list of the recommended can companies.
If you are ever in Hanoi I would highly recommend staying at the hanoi moment hotel they are fabulous and I would be happy to give you Jenny's email address to contact her.
I showered, got a couple of hours sleep and then went down for breakfast. Thank goodness I showered at 5am because at 8am when i got up the power on the street was cut off by the government for 4 hours, so there were no lights in the hotel (except emergency ones) and I was on the six floor. I have posted a picture of me having breakfast by candle light.
Apparently the government cuts power randomly on a monthly basis but the hotel did not seem to know why?????
At breakfast I ran into a vancouver couple I had met before leaving for Sapa. I found out that Judy Villeneuve has been a city councillor in surrey for 23 years. I joined judy and her husband mike in a taxi to the ho chi Minh mosolium and museum.
Visiting the mosolium reminded me of my days in east Berlin in the 1970's. Very rigid security, no smiles, lots of barking orders and hoarding people. We had to put our cameras through a security check and then we were given little red bags to put them in and then at another checkpoint they took the camera out of the red bag put a number on it gave you a duplicate number and said we could pick them up on the other side. Seems to me they could streamline this process but maybe they are trying to create work since 65 percent of the population in Hanoi is under 35.
We were then ushered by what is supposedly ho chi minh's body in a glass case in a guarded room. We were then able to retrieve our cameras on the other side.
Off to view ho chi Minh's cars, home and stilted house where a lot of high level negotiations took place.
We visited the museum which is quite spectacular with many displays about the plight and struggles of the Vietnamese people. This land has been invaded and or occupied by the French, japanese, Chinese and Americans. At times it seems the people were slaves in their own country. I do not profess to know much about ho chi Minh nor his beliefs but if the info I read had any truth it seems he was a very simple, principled man who had a dream - one united free vietnam, with food and education for its people ) sounds a little like Martin Luther kings dream for the blacks in America. Uncle Ho as he was called was loved by the people of Vietnam and at one time had a lot of influence but that became less and he became more of just a figure head as others got into power with their own agendas. He did not live to see a free united vietnam as he died in 1969. I am not sure how much of this information is propaganda so I will need to do a little Internet surfing.
Time for us to go highland coffee on the third floor above the roundabout and do some serious people watching.
I left my new friends to go visit the Hoa Lo prison. This prison opened in the late 1800's and was where vietnamese suspected of being communist sympathizers were sent to be cruelly torchured and put to death by the French colonist. Later it was dubbed the 'Hanoi Hilton' when it was used to house American pilots shot down during the Vietnam war. This is the prison where John McCain (the senator who ran for the republican party against Obama) was a POW. The prison has pictures of the POW's including McCain playing basketball, making Christmas dinner and decorating a Christmas tree. Interesting how this differs from American version. Their recounts are of torchure, leg irons and solitary confinement.
Although I find the people in Hanoi unfriendly I must say they are great cooks. I have enjoyed some of the best food I have ever eaten and it is soooo cheap. I have taken the opportunity to buy street food like the banana dipped in dough and deep fried for 50 cents, or the sticky rice cooked and served in a bamboo shoot, green papaya seafood salad or one place I ate was called Bun Bo Nam Bo it was recommended to me by the couple from Toronto and was about 4 blocks from my hotel. When I found it the place was one step up from eating off the little plastic tables in the street. It was a small corridor with short, long metal tables and benches. The place was full of locals and me. When I sat down they plunked a bowl in front of me filled with a delicious broth, noodles, topped with fried garlic, beef, bean sprouts and crushed peanuts- yummy and it was only $2.50. You must be careful where you eat pho soup as some places use store bought Ramon noodles (I saw the cook from our hotel coming in from the shops with a bag filled with packages of Ramon noodles) the best pho is on the streets if you are brave!