Day 13: Hanoi city tour full day

Last night BeeBee set the alarm for 6 am, but the rooster set his alarm much earlier. What is a rooster doing in the middle of a city?


Pati and BeeBee had breakfast in the breakfast room of the hotel. The food was very good and the service was excellent. A stunning mural of village life occupies all of one wall.

They were met by their guide at 8:30 am in the hotel lobby. Their first stop was the Ho Chi Minh Complex:. Completed in 1975, the complex contains Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum (which they only saw from the outside, since it is closed on Mondays and Fridays), his former stilt-house residence, the Presidential Palace and the One Pillar Pagoda. The mausoleum is immense. The guide summarized the life of Ho Chi Minh and the wars involving Vietnam in the last century.

Next, they visited the Temple of Literature. Originally built as a temple to Confucius, this is the site of Vietnam‟s first university dating back to 1070. The temple highlights the importance influence that Vietnamese society has placed on education. There is a covered pavilion with 82 stone tablets, each resting on the back of a turtle, that list the 1000+ names of all the graduates of the university. Although Confucianism is a philosophy rather than a religion, there were people praying to statues of Confucius.

They then drove to visit the Museum of Ethnology: This museum is widely acknowledged as the best in the country and has an extensive display dedicated to Vietnam‟s 54 Ethnic minority peoples. Many of the displays inside are accompanied by videos of villagers engaged in the activity being illustrated. For example, the rituals followed after the death of a family member are shown, including videos of the grieving family. Another video shows the ritual killing and sacrifice of a water buffalo. BeeBee thought that some of these videos were too graphic and invaded personal privacy. Outside the building were actual homes and implements taken from from villages of  several of the ethnic minorities.

After this, they enjoyed a Vietnamese lunch in a local restaurant. The first appetizer was pho,  which Pati and BeeBee enjoy frequently back home at a local Vietnamese pho restaurant. Each time they eat there, they say (as they ask for forks), we really need to learn how to eat with chopsticks before we go to Southeast Asia. In Thailand and Laos, on this trip, the standard eating utensils were spoon and fork, so they forgot that they didn’t know how to eat with chopsticks. Today, the food arrived with a spoon and chopsticks.  Today, Pati and BeeBee learned how to eat with chopsticks. (A group of young men at the next table watched Pati and BeeBee eat their meal. When their waitress came, they ordered hamburgers and fries. When their meal came, they asked for forks. BeeBee felt just the tiniest bit superior.)

After this, their guide set them off on a one hour cyclo tour through the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Pati and BeeBee each sat on a cushioned bench in front of a young man who pedaled the bicycle. Besides seeing all the people and shops, just watching how traffic interacts, without fearing for her life, was a highlight for BeeBee.


The cyclists delivered them to a theater, where their guide was waiting, for a Water Puppet Show. Originating in the 10th century, water puppetry is a unique folk art that is found only in Vietnam.The guide provided front row seats, and Pati and BeeBee were enchanted by the show.

After this, they went back to their hotel, where they said goodbye to their guide and driver. (Thank you, Mr. Tho.)

Not being very hungry, they asked the hotel staff to recommend a restaurant where they could get a light meal, then walked to Gecko and had caprese pizza. Gecko is a small, informal restaurant that serves very good food at reasonable prices.

Then they continued walking to see Hoan Kiem Lake, a beautiful lake encircled by paved well-lighted walkways. In the middle of the lake is the temple of the lady Buddha, which only dignitaries can visit.

Then Pati and BeeBee attempted to retrace their steps to return to their hotel. They had a reasonable map and, unlike Laos, street names could be found on street signs and on many buildings. Since their hotel provided the map, their street was highlighted in red on the map. Easy peasy. They navigated to one end of the hotel’s street, but could not spot the street. They navigated to the other end of the street and still could not find the street. It was around 8 pm and totally dark, except for lights on some street corners and from some business windows, so the map could only be checked infrequently. Round and round they went. At one point, a bicycle-taxi driver offered to drive them for only 200,000 dong (about $10 USD), but he did not speak English and was illiterate in his own language (i.e., could not read the hotel’s address on the map). He was offering to pedal them around for an hour (without finding the hotel). Finally, they realized what the problem was: the red-highlighted street on the map was not a street at all. It was merely a label for the hotel, and there was a barely-visible thin line from the end of the label to the actual hotel location. With this insight, they were at the hotel within minutes.

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