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March 24th 2010
Published: March 26th 2010
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Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, and home to 6.5 millions inhabitants is, much like Saigon, a frantic migration of people and motorbikes at all times during the day. The red river runs through and lakes can be found all over. Hanoi, especially its old quarter, has become quite elegant since it was rebuilt after severe American bombing during the war. This year also marks the one thousandth anniversary of the city and festivities can be found throughout.

I arrived in the early morning after an especially uncomfortable and mostly sleepless night on a sleeper bus. After getting off the bus I noticed my shoes, which are normally tied to my backpack, were nowhere to be found. Bad start to the day. To boot, motorbike taxi drivers were converging onto me from all directions asking me where I needed to go and literally trying to grab hold of me. I was still trying to wake up and figuring out what the hell happend to my shoes. From now on shoes go inside the backpack, not tied to it from the outside. I negotiated a motorbike to take me to Drift Backpackers Hostel, which had a good reputation. After arriving I dumped my stuff and took a quick shower, and then headed back and did what I normally do when I arrive at a new city: explore it by foot.

I headed north for a while and then east until I approached Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, and as luck would have it, it was still open (only open in the mornings). Against uncle Ho's wishes, he had wanted to be cremated, the government preserved his body after his death and placed him in the mausoleum for all to come and pay respects to the modern day father of Vietnam. Every year his body goes to Russia for three months for "maintenance". The line was long, many school children were there on field day, and everyone had to be incredibly austere, with no smiling, and perfect postures and synchronized footsteps into the mausoleum. Uugh. I only got to see uncle Ho for about thirty seconds and I must say he looks quite good for being a hundred and twenty some-odd years old. I also wandered past the presidential palace and Ho's old house and study.

For the rest of the day I went to the Chinese embassy to sort some things, later went to the old quarter and checked out Hoan Kiem Lake which is right in the center, along with the red bridge and pagoda within. I then checked out a traditional Vietnamese water puppetry show, and although I had no idea what was going on, I'll admit they can play with puppets alright. For dinner I wanted to check out this nearby place that was recommended to me called Little Hanoi, and while I intended to eat alone, I bumped into some friends I had made in a previous city along the way. They were with a few other people and I joined them, and after food we walked to a frozen yogurt shop and then strolled the city. I made my way back and then ran into Jordi and Mark, whom I had last seen in Cambodia! Amazing how I keep encountering past travel buddies.

The next day I needed to buy some shoes since some douche bag was now wearing my nice and broken-in old pair. You never really know what you'll get in Vietnam, be it an original product or most likely a fake. In this case most definitely a fake. I walked to this place I had discovered the day before, which I dubbed "shoe street" and for those still confused it's a street littered with nothing but shoe shops. Of course everything is fake and inferior to the real name brand shoes being sold and I just take a chance with a pair that fits really nicely. I then go to the History Museum for about two hours, and then pop in to some electronic shops on the way back to the drift. That night I chill out in the movie room, which is a wondrous place with the exception that all the dvd's there are scratched beyond repair resulting in the viewing of any movie from beginning to end an almost impossible task. Late at night as I walk around the hostel I stubbed my toe quite badly not just a regular stub which generally involves a lot of cursing and beating up of one self, but I knew this was bad and that my big toe was either severely sprained or outright broken. Bummer. Unfortunately there isn't much to do for a busted toe except let it heal and stop stubbing the damn thing! I really hate flip flops sometimes...

The next three days were spent out in Halong Bay, and once I returned to Hanoi I spent another day visiting the Ho Chi Minh museum, can't seem to get enough of uncle Ho, lots of interesting info to be found there, and the museum of ethnology which didn't much impress me much. On my way back I passed a traditional therapy clinic. I originally wanted to get acupuncture but then decided against it since I couldn't be sure the needles weren't reused. Instead I got an acupressure massage for a half hour. They really put my back through the ringer. I then just spent the rest of my time in the capital chilling out at the drift and attempting to actually watch an entire film there.

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