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Published: July 20th 2015
Our train arrived in Hanoi at about 0430 and we caught a taxi to our hotel. Once there, we waited in the very luxurious lobby of the Luxury Golden Lotus Hotel as we were told that check in time wasn't until 1400. We've been in Vietnam long enough to know that they will bend over backwards to get you in earlier. So we only had to wait an hour and we were in. As the name suggests, it was one step up from the regular Golden Lotus Hotel. The rooms were more luxurious, spacious, with windows of which one has a view over the city. We took some time to regroup and round up our gross, smelly trekking clothes to take to the laundry. I have a mutiny on my hands. Brendan has given up the ghost and refuses to do anymore and chooses to watch movies and sleep the whole day and Last Born wants to play on his ipod. Whereas I figure, we can do all that at home, so at 0730 First Born and I set off to go and see Uncle Ho, as he is affectionately called, or should I say God, which he certainly is to the Vietnamese. After stepping out of the taxi we joined the World Guinness Record for the longest queue. As chaotic as Hanoi is, everyone in the queue was orderly and very peaceful. We passed through an xray machine where I had to give up my bottle of water and tablet. An efficient system, gave me a number for it and said I could pick it up on the otherside of the Mausoleum. Not happy about my water being confiscated though as it would be ages of waiting in the oppressive heat, already disgusting at that early hour. It wasn't long before a lady told me to cover up my shoulders. Luckily, I came prepared as LP said to wear pants and no sleeveless tops, but the cardigan made the heat worse. Low and behold, further up the queue I see, what has to be , an Australian family wearing boardies and a tank top! Once inside the marble monstrosity, we were told to shut up and be quiet, in Vietnamese, in order to show our respect. I have no real respect, I just wanted to see a dead dude, but didn't want to be gunned down by the guards either. To be fair, Ho Chi Minh certainly started off with some good ideas, and good on him for getting rid of those Frenchies. However, his idealogy definitely got a bit misguided along the way and I think he's a dickhead for causing trouble with trying to make all of Vietnam communist against their will. Apparently, just before they made the division, there was a 300 day window of opportunity for people to move either south or north. Only 1 million people moved north and when several million started moving south they just got shot. I will certainly make sure I make the post once I have Vietnam because the authorities now know where I live. Anyway, Uncle Ho died in 1969 and despite his wishes to be cremated, he was held in such reverence that he was embalmed and put on public display. Inside the mausoleum it was very dimly lit so difficult to see much detail, but he looked like a Madame Toussaud wax figure. We weren't allowed to stop and just filed past so as to not hold up the queue. He goes to Russia every year for a months holiday to get a facelift. We went to see his house, but First Born and I were singled out for payment, whilst all the locals went in for free. It's too hot for dick head's house anyway and we spent the next half an hour in the blazing inferno trying to get a taxi back to the hotel. Easier said than done. I'm glad we went early as the heat will only get worse. Once we had covered from the heat, we went to buy a few gifts. It's really hard to buy gifts if you don't actually go into a shop and this where shopping with boys totally sux big time. I ended staying down in the street and did a bit of shopping on my own which was much more pleasant. I spent the afternoon by the pool and trying to have a snooze. We went out again for dinner and unfortuneately our last meal here wasn't very nice, so we had to wash it down with some Baskin and Robins icecream as a treat. On the way I had a quick look in the old St Joseph's church where they were having mass. It was beautiful inside. Before we went to the hotel we picked up our laundry some random person's house down a dark, dank, smelly alleyway. The family was very welcoming and I swear they were about to offer us some coffee if we weren't in such a hurry to get out. After packing all of our gear ready for the airport I was in bed by 2115. After the best nights sleep I've had since first arriving in Vietnam we were up at 0530. Once at the airport, I was really annoyed with myself as after passing immigration, I realised that the only money changer was back on the other side f immigration where we checked our luggage. Of course, there is no going back and the Dong is worthless outside Vietnam, so there is no changing it for Ringgit for our long stop over in Kuala Lumpur. There was no option but to tell Brendan to go and spend it all on food. I have never seen him move so quick this whole holiday.
As our family adventure draws to a close, the trekking and homestay in Sa Pa has definitely been my favourite experience. It is right up there with trekking in the Himalayas and Climbing Mount Sinai. Vietnam is definitely my favourite South East Asian country (although I have yet to visit Laos and Mayanmar). It is a very easy country to travel in with kids, despite the confusing railway system. I felt completely safe on the street at all times. The people are helpful and friendly (government officials excepted) and just like all travel to different cultures to one's own, one must keep an open mind. It's funny how when you first get here, you are using hand sanitiser every 5 minutes, wearing thongs in the shower, plastering yourself in sect repellent, sleeping under the mosquito net and generally taking all precautions against everything. As each day goes by without incident, one gets braver and takes less precautions. I can honestly say that by the time we left Vietnam we were eating salad, washing our teeth in tap water and wearing their plastic sandals around the house. Yes, it's true that I and the family survived without any Dysentry, Rabies, Hepatitis, Malaria or Gardia. Heck, I was even patting the water buffallo despite reading they can gore you to death with their horns. I figured if a 6 year old is in charge of keeping his herd out of the rice paddies and then ride one, then how dangerous can it be.
Thanks to my loyal band of followers for reading my blog. Not always interesting, but a snapshot into our adventures nonetheless until the next one...
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