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Paying to see a dead body

Heroic women, Ho Chi Minh and a graduation

sunny

We have a bit of a secret to confess. We’ve fallen in love with Hanoi. Out of the Asian cities we’ve visited it is probably our favourite. It’s a perfect mix of real Vietnam with just a hint of fresh tourism. When we think about what we’ve actually done in Hanoi there’s not a great deal we can list. Instead we’ve enjoyed the people-watching, the wandering and stumbling across some fantastic things.

That isn’t to say we haven’t tried to go to the sights. Yesterday we planned to go to the Vietnam military history museum but again were caught out by the sudden increase of prices from our version of Lonely Planet. We ummmed and ahhhed and decided not to bother so we headed five minutes down the road to go to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. Unfortunately Rach was scantily clad in her vest top and shorts so we were sent away with our heads bowed in shame. Time for plan C.

Rach had been perusing our map on the city when she came across the Women’s museum. Intrigued she checked the guidebook and discovered it was a collection of exhibits focusing purely of the women in Vietnam and the contributions they have made to its history. After a short march we discovered there were a lot more exhibitions then we first thought. Not only did they have sections on the women who had fought for their country either in a military sense or political but also areas dedicated to revealing a woman’s place in the current culture. It showed the different styles of Vietnamese weddings and how they would bring up their children. It was fantastic to see a museum dedicated to the gender that’s generally looked over in Vietnamese history.

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In the evening we drank as much of the free beer as we could and got involved in a game of arrogance with some of the other backpackers. We headed out for dinner back to our favourite street restaurant and as we’re so cool we attracted a few middle-aged westerners, like moths to a flame, who followed our example and pulled up a plastic chair.

The next day we marched determinedly back to the mausoleum, this time with Rach covered in a longer sleeved top. There was a bit of a queue to get in as they gather you in a large group and lead you through together. It’s like a race though and you have to power walk to get through. It’s incredibly strict and there are no cameras allowed, no dawdling and definitely no talking. We near sprinted around his glass coffin but we were astonished by what we saw. Ho Chi Minh didn’t look real; he actually looked sort of plastic. We have no idea how they are maintaining his body but it does look good, he just looks like he’s sleeping.

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Approximately thirty-nine seconds later we were back out into the grounds and spent a few hours relaxing and enjoying the sun. We decided on our way back to the hostel to drop in on one last sight; the Doan Mon Gate and accidently stumbled across a graduation prom for Vietnamese students. Three words; They. Looked. Sensational. Rach was actually a little ashamed of British prom dresses because the girls’ outfits here were stunning. We watched for a while as the graduates spelled out letters with their bodies and posed for photographs. It was a brilliant surprise to find.

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Now we’re about to get on the overnight train to Hué and we wonder what it’s going to be like. Will it be the same as the Chinese trains?

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Whilst Hanoi has a lot of sights you can pay to go and see, it’s a brilliant city just to walk around and watch the world go by.
  • Make sure you have your shoulders covered if you go to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum or you will be turned away.

Posted by rexontheroad 22:17 Archived in Vietnam

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