It’s a warm rainy day in Hanoi. Umbrellas in hand we boarded the bus for our drive through the busy streets to our first stop, the impressive Ho Chi Minh museum. Here we learned about the life of the famous Vietnamese ruler, affectionately know as Uncle Ho. Born in 1890 he grew up through the French revolution. He went to live overseas from 1911 to 1913 to learn about the ways of other countries. In 1930 he founded the communist party and put Vietnam on the world map., He lived a tumultuous life, was imprisoned in China and sentenced to death. A British lawyer came to his defense and saved him from execution. He then went on to govern the country from 1945 to 1969, making many great changes to enhance the lives of his people.
Our next stop was the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university. Constructed in 1070, the university operated till 1779. The gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a relaxing glimpse into Vietnam’s past. Each plaque has the name of one of the scholars that attended the school to become a doctor. The turtle at the bottom of the plaque is a symbol of longevity.
We toured the Hoa Lo Prison also known as the Hanoi Hilton. Over 400 American pilots shot down in the war were imprisoned here, including Senator John Macean. Built by the French in 1896 to hold the political prisoners. It was the largest prison in Indochina. There were quarters for women, men and prisoners on death row. The conditions were abhor-able. The small cells held up to 20 prisoners with no plumbing, electricity or heat. The original guillotine is housed here.
After lunch we continued our city tour with a walk through Ba Din Square/ We strolled past Ho Chi Minh’s tomb, the Parliament House and the Presidential Palace .We continued on to the house on stilts which was once the residence of Ho Chi Minh. He lived from 1954 until 1969. In the same complex is the One Pillar Pagoda, founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049. On our way out a small group of soldiers marched by us. Our Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau toured these same sites the day before us. He is in Vietnam for the world summit.
On our way out of the complex we stopped at the temple to observe a prayer session. Enchanting.
Dinner this evening at Indochine Restaurant. Another fabulous meal! Tomorrow we have an early departure. We are travelling to Halon Bay to spend a night on a junk. Details coming soon!
Hotel: Silk Path Hotel, Hanoi