AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Hanoi: Day Three

Today was mopping up the sites which we hadn’t made it to on the pervious two days in Hanoi. We could probably have seen all the main sites in Hanoi in two days had we been better planned and organised. Getting out of bed late probably hasn’t helped either, often not leaving the hotel until 10am.

Our first port of call was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which was closed when we got there, despite a sign saying it was open until midday. Next door is the Presidential Palace, residence for the governor of Indochina during the colonial days. Visitors can’t enter (or get very close) to the palace, but they can enter the grounds. So we headed there, which was also closed for lunch. This feels a bit like Greece where the official websites gave one opening time, the signs at the locations give a different opening time, and then the staff seem to open and close the site whenever they feel like it.

We had read about a crashed B52 bomber sitting in a lake in Hanoi. Actually, only a small part of the plane, not the whole thing. A review on Trip Advisor said not worth visiting, only bother if there is nothing better to do. Well, the places we wanted to visit weren’t open until 2pm, we had nothing better to do, so we set off to find the remains of the B52.

It wasn’t far from the Ho Chi Minh Museum, straight down the road from the rear of the museum and turn left. We reached the lake which our map showed and there was no plane! Luckily we half expected this as the plane was shown in two locations, depending which source was consulted. So we continued up the road towards the next lake. We walked for about 5 minutes through the very narrow back streets of Hanoi, dirty, smelly, crowded and shops selling pretty much everything. Annoyingly, the streets were also full of motorbikes, with just enough room for one person and two bikes to pass they sped up and down the narrow lanes, beeping mad as they went.

When we reached the lake finally it was a huge anti-climax. The lake was covered with green algae and the area was pretty bad. But there it was, a landing gear and fragment of fuselage from a B52 bomber, which had been there for at least 40 years. We took a few pictures and quickly moved on.

We had bought sandwiches earlier and it was only midday so we decided to head for the botanical gardens to cool off, eat and relax for a few hours to wait for everywhere to open again. The entrance fee of 2000 Dong (6p) each was OK. It wasn’t so much a botanical garden as just a garden, plenty of trees and paths and a few lakes, nothing else, but enough benches in the shade to eat peacefully.

We ate, relaxed and read (The Economist cached on our phones), then walked back to the Presidential Palace. In the grounds of the palace is Ho Chi Minh’s house, which the leaflet pointed out was a simple wooden house on stilts with only two rooms. There is also the house he lived and worked in whilst his wooden house was been built and a garage with the cars he used for official government work (two Russian cars and a Peugeot 404 bought for him by the Vietnamese people of New Caledonia). No information hardly and nothing else there.

For some reason we felt very tired. Maybe it was the heat or the slow walking, or just the fact that it felt like a totally wasted day. By 3pm all we has seen was a bit of crashed plane and someone’s very small house, we usually race from site to site seeing plenty in a short period.

We decided to visit the women’s museum, mainly because Trip Advisor had it listed as the highest ranking museum in Hanoi. It looked at the role of women in Vietnam. The first floor was dedicated to the family, from marriage rituals to childbirth and looking at the customs in Vietnam. The second floor was about patriotic women who had fought either the French or Americans. This was very different to how women in WW2 were portrayed in the UK. These displays had enemy body counts, tonnes of grain transported and other patriotic statistics. It also showed hero mothers who had lost many sons in the war. For me the most interesting part was a video of a woman who spent two years painting portraits of these 100 or so ‘hero mothers’, it finished with a video of her meeting a senior government official. The contrast in body language was incredible, she was so passionate; arms waving and talking excitedly, he was sat there, arms crossed, stroking his chin from time to time and talking quietly. It appeared like he didn’t give much of a damm. A poor propaganda attempt.

At only 4:30 we were knackered. Walking slowly and having no energy to do anything else we headed for a restaurant we had seen that morning and ate a decent meal. Let’s hope our days get more productive.

Posted from Hanoi, Hanoi, Vietnam.

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