In the airport of Ho Chi Minh City, I had a little reunion. After only a couple of weeks, which felt like months, Brittany and I met up with Amelia and Mikaela. I was so happy to see Amelia, as she has been my sidekick in Southeast Asia from day one. We quickly got to swapping stories. They had been to Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, and Bali and it was exciting to hear about their experiences. As Bali is the one place I am sad that I won't make it to, I had to live vicariously through them for that trip.
We got a $2 shuttle, arrived in Hanoi, and easily made our way to May De Ville Hostel. That night, we wandered around the Old Quarter, noticing how much of a French influence the city has on it. We also noticed how aggressive the traffic is, maybe even worse than Saigon. Because Hanoi is pretty touristy, and has shops and street meat lining the roads, the beeping and congestion seem to be escalated. I skyped with my parents from the 10th floor of our hostel and my dad could still hear the constant honking of the traffic.
We decided to do some sight seeing the next day. We did our own walking tour of the city. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was our first stop, but the line to look at it was atrociously long. We skipped that and wandered around the nearest museum grounds and Chinese pagoda.
The Temple of Literature was a short walk away, and this is apparently where the first national university was. It is the place where Confucius taught and it had beautiful buildings on the grounds.
As our stomachs are more often thinking about eating than our brains think about learning, lunch was next. We went down a less touristy road in search of some cheap Vietnamese, and wallah. Bun cha, an amazing Vietnamese cuisine. We were brought rice noodles, meat in broth, and herbs. It seemed to never end, and the broth was unlike any I've ever had, all for 30,000 dong, or $1.50.
The last stop was Hoa Lo Prison. This is where Vietnamese people were horribly treated by the French colonists long ago. Before Hoa Lo was turned into a museum, it was most recently used to keep American pilots as prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. The nickname for this prison was the Hanoi Hilton, as the prisoners were treated like they were at a hotel. The prisoners celebrated Christmas, played sports, gambled, and cooked meals. John McCain went to Hoa Lo, and there were even pictures of him. It was interesting to see this, as I think of the Vietnamese and Americans as such enemies at this time.
Although I liked Hanoi, there isn't a whole lot to do there, similar to some of the cities in Cambodia. One thing that we did do one night is called Bia Hoi. Bia Hoi is a draft beer popular in Vietnam. This beer is available throughout the country in small street corners. The beer is brewed daily and is delivered to the bars in kegs. This makes the streets of Hanoi bustle around 5 PM, as the Bia Hoi is a mere 5,000 dong per glass, or $0.25. It is a great activity for people watching, although your butt and legs may get a bit sore. The tables and chairs are miniature in Vietnam, but it's the best happy hour I've had in a long time.
The rest of our time in Hanoi was spent in the living room in the hostel. They had actual couches and a big screen TV, neither of which we have encountered since before leaving for Thailand. They had HBO. Enough said.
I have never been to a Vietnamese restaurant in America, but I know I will be frequenting them a lot when I get home. The food has such a distinct taste, and I have enjoyed all of the dishes I have tried here. A lot of it has been a soup, which has actually been refreshing in the cooler temperature (cooler meaning high 70's). Pho is another famous Vietnamese dish and I tried that on our last day!
Onto Sapa for some trekking adventures!