Free time? What’s that? – Hanoi – Day 2

When days start to feel like weeks and a week seems like a lifetime ago, you begin to realize how fast your actually moving. Add to this that I started this trip with a horrible cough, that has progress to the hacking up of a lung and its not too surprising that I’m pretty tired. So any free time up till now (which hasn’t been that much) has been spent sleeping, and thus I’m behind on the journal again…

Last night we went to bed pretty early, around 9 I think, which was somewhat an accident, but that probably only means that we needed it that much more, so I woke up around 6:45 am. We got ready and headed for Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. The lady at the front desk here, Tam Thuong (Relax) Hotel, told us that this was only open from 8-11 and that we should get there early, and so we headed right over before breakfast.

It was about a 20-30 minute walk from where we are in town, which is nothing for us now, especially after a night’s rest as good as last nights, but in the essence of time, we decided to motorbike it. We found two guys willing to drive us (which isn’t very hard, they’re like pidgins flocking to bread crumbs here), and talked them down from 50,000 dongs each to 20,000 dongs total (about $0.65 each) for the 10 minute ride.

We ended up getting there a little after 8, which was a pretty good time since a herd of Korean tourists and school children showed up shortly there after. They didn’t allow backpacks or cameras in the mausoleum, so there weren’t many pictures from today.

The mausoleum itself wasn’t all that enticing. They seemed to enforce a great deal of respect (no backpacks, crossing of the hands, hands in pockets, shorts, or revealing clothing are allowed in his mausoleum), for a man who they did not respect his dieing wishes (I believe I read somewhere that he wanted to be cremated, but his casket is on display here). You pretty much just walk in, around, and out in a single file line at a decent pace, with guards prodding you if you start to slow down.

Once through the mausoleum however, for 10,000 dongs ($0.66) you can view where he spent his time while president. He had several different buildings in which he lived, but confusedly enough, it seems that he went from living in somewhat of a mansion/palace to living in a house on stilts with only two rooms. They didn’t give much information on why this move was made, but it would be interesting to find out.

After this we headed over to the museum. Museums covering historic things like this generally interest me, so I started reading through most of the things on display at a fairly through pace, as J kind of wizzed on ahead. A lot of the newspaper articles and letters were only available in Vietnamese, but a fair selection of it, particularly the quotes, where in E
english as well.

After completing the first section of the museum, I moved on to the next expecting to see J finishing up there, but no luck. I went through here fairly quickly since there wasn’t too much english material here, and moved on up to the next floor.

Knowing that J wasn’t as interested in this sort of thing I skipped over almost everything here, figuring I’d go back, and tried to find him. However, I reached the end of the museum with still no sight. Thinking that I took too long (the first section of was pretty interesting), I went outside and looked for him there. Still nothing.

I waited there for 5 minuets then went out to the front desk where I checked my bag. Again, nothing. I retrieved my bag, ate a few bananas, and drank some water while I waited. Still no sight, it was almost 10:30 now so I decided to head back in to see the museum while I could, this time with my camera in hand.

As I started to walk back in, J saw me outside, and quickly ran over. We both ran over what we did and laughed. We snuck back in through the exit and went back up to the third floor where J had actually been and spent most of his time, and showed me what he thought was interesting so I could as much as possible in the little time left.

Hungry, we haggled with some motorbikes for the same fare back near the hostel for noodles. Getting a good price here was much harder since it seemed that most tourists at a place like this overpay here, but after a few minutes and getting a few bikes involved, it was pretty easy. Upon arrival, I only had a 20,000d to pay my guy, while J was paying 10,000d to his. I saw this and when they guy tried to say that I was paying for both of them, I grabbed on to the back of his bike and asked for my change. He tried to play innocent, and gave me my change.

The afternoon we spent walking around the Old Quarter a bit more. We went out looking for the ‘Towers of Hanoi’, which is the name of a famous math problem commonly given to freshman computer science students. What we found marked at this location was more like a cheap version of the Sears Tower, than anything traditional like were hoping, but it was still funny to get a picture of this.

The rest off the day was pretty much spent haggling with different travel agents for good prices for open bus tickets to Ho Chi Minh City, and Ha Long Bay, where we’re off to tomorrow. From the pictures I’ve seen the bay looks absolutely gorgeous, and there are a bunch of mountaintops with caves we’re able to explore sticking out from all over the bay. So I’m looking forward to it!

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