Today was our last full day in Hanoi, we fly out for Hue on Wednesday the 12th. We are finally getting used to the crazyness and sort of remembering where some of the streets go, but the old quarter is still very hard. The bigger roads around Ba Dinh Square were easier to find out way around but just as daunting to cross.
Today we went to several of the most important places in Hanoi. We walked to Ba Dinh Square were Ho Chi Minh read the proclamation of independence in 1945 and where he now lies in the Mausoleum built after his death. He lies preserved similar to Lenin does in Russia, despite wishing to be cremated. The Mausoleum is under constant guard and you must walk through silently, without stopping and no photography is allowed. In the same area is a museum and also a house where he lived and worked. You are allowed to take pictures here but it seemed better to just observe and experience as it is a very solemn place. There is still a huge amount of reverence for the man they call “Uncle Ho”. Also in the area is the One Pillar Pagoda, the presidential palace and the current government buildings.
We visited some other temples in the area, you have to pay a small fee to enter but it is worth it to see them and they were much quieter than the Ngoc Son temple on Hoan Kiem lake which we did not go into as it was far too busy.
We also visited the Imperial Citadel which is amazing and the war museum, did not get too many photos in the war museum of the outdoor exhibits as it was raining quite hard. Our last stop for the day was the Hoa Lo prison which was mostly demolished for modern developments but the gate house and some other adjoining areas remain as a museum. This was built by the french colonialists in the late 1800’s and housed many Vietnamese prisoners in atrocious conditions. When the Vietnamese reclaimed their country and gained independence it was then used a prison housing American POW’s in the Vietnam war including former US senator John McCain.
We have been dining on a lot of street food here, mostly Banh My, but had a meal tonight in a basic restaurant down the road from our hotel. Food here is very cheap especially in basic restaurants/eating houses of which there are literally hundreds in the old quarter. Tonight we had a huge bowl of noodles, beef and vegetables and an iced tea each for 110000 dong which is a bit under $7NZ.