My time in Hanoi was spread out over four days in the span of a few weeks. In between Ninh Binh, Cat Ba Island, and Sapa I had come and gone from the capitol several times. As I mentioned earlier I based myself in The Hoan Kiem Lake District which borders the Old Quarter of the city. The Old quarter is a maze like neighborhood that I would get lost for hours in wandering the streets and looking at all of the strange and foreign people around me. Any manner of consumable is on offer here and you could never get bored in the streets.
I did make a visit to Hoa Lo Prison aka "The Hanoi Hilton" where American POWs were kept after being shot down whilst bombing Hanoi during the war. The museum was a little strange in that the section on the American POWs is very small and basically has staged photos of how well the prisoners were kept by the generous and courteous People's Army of Vietnam. Of course we know the conditions were anything but generous or courteous. Most of the museum focused on the Vietnamese Political Prisoners held by the French during the occupation.
An interesting enough place for an afternoon visit. Ironically now most of the prison has been destroyed to make way for a high rise luxury residential complex.
One of the strangest things I did in Hanoi, and really in my travels all together, was to visit Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum. I put on my finest commie shirt and headed out walking. Here (against Ho's wishes as he wanted to be cremated with his ashes spread about the country) in a massive concrete structure Ho is eternally shrined in a glass sarcophagus for all to see. The whole process of seeing Ho is very authoritarian with guards everywhere. No talking, no photos, no shorts, and you must walk at a slow pace in the room holding the corpse. The body looked fake, almost like wax with white wispy hair and Ho's signature Fu Manchu mustache and beard. It was kind of creepy but certainly an experience I won't ever forget.
Just like that my month in Vietnam had come to an end. A few flights later I have arrived in The Philippines for one last holiday in the sun before I go out with a bang in Hong Kong.
My eventual return is less than a month away. And just like before I left home on this massive journey feelings of nervousness and anxiety have set in for my return to The States. Funny thing life and how perspectives and direction change.
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