The Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta was our last destination in Vietnam. Aaron joined us again, this time coming from Nepal after completing the Everest Base trek.

We're back together again, but still missing Ali!

We’re back together again, but still missing Ali!

As suggested by our guide-book, we took a one-day tour from Saigon and then bailed out at the conclusion by having the bus drop us in My Tho while it headed back to Saigon. The tour was a reminder of why we often prefer exploring on our own. The guide’s English was fair, at best, and the tour group got herded like sheep from one (sometimes cursory) sight or activity to another.

 He actually said, "This is a coconut." Oy!

He actually said, “This is a coconut.” Oy!

In fairness, we did get to tour an agricultural area, a rice cake factory, hear some local musicians and singers, tour a coconut candy factory, ride on a horse-drawn carriage and ride through some beautiful narrow channels on a motorized boat as well as a small boat rowed by a native.

Mekong row boats

Mekong row boats

While touring the candy factory, a minor disaster struck when the sticky stuff caused a crown to dislodge. Fortunately, I didn’t swallow the crown but was now facing a dentist visit in Ho Chi Minh City.

The culprit: Coconut candy. The victim: Got a sweet tooth.

The culprit: Coconut candy. The victim: Got a sweet tooth.

It felt odd but kind of cool when we left the tour group and the bus dropped off on the highway at an intersection of the road leading to the town of My Tho. We were traveling light as we’d left the majority of our luggage and clothes in HCMC bringing one small backpack each. I commandeered three xe oms (motor-scooters) with drivers and Cindy, Aaron and I motorcaded our way to the harbor and our hotel. It was only a few kilometers and a fun way to travel.

The next day we continued our journey south, this time taking a taxi to the highway where we would get a bus to Can Tho, the central hub of the Mekong and home to the Mekong Delta’s largest floating market. The ‘bus stop’ consisted of a few plastic seats, a food vendor and a couple of local ‘charges d’faire’ who would flag the buses down. We didn’t wait but a few minutes before a sleeper-bus stopped. I negotiated the fare down by a third, though, I’m sure we still paid a premium tourist price.

Since the best time to visit the market was early in the am, we walked around Can Tho on foot before Cindy and I rented bikes to explore the surroundings more afield. We took a small local ferry to cross a Mekong River tributary and rode down some narrow alley-ways where almost everyone had a big phat ‘hello’. We must have gotten hundreds of hello’s and had a great time; no other tourists, just the locals going about their day-to-day stuff and us cruising the slow road.

ferry

Going through Hung Phu village

Cruising through Hung Phu village

It had been raining almost every day in the late afternoon and we were keeping an eye on some clouds gathering in the distance. We headed back to catch the little ferry to Can Tho just in time to beat the big rains.

Boats on the Can Tho floating market

Boats on the Can Tho floating market

Our floating-market guide picked us up at our hotel at 6:30am and we walked to her small long-tail motor boat which we had to ourselves. She spoke no English, though, we didn’t mind. We enjoyed the ride passing several large tour boats carrying 10-15 passengers and feeling very grateful for our intimate experience.

 We never got used to Vietnamese-style breakfasts of noodles and soup but selections on the Mekong were limited

We never got used to Vietnamese-style breakfasts of noodles and soup but selections on the Mekong were limited

We toured a rice-noodle factory (again, happy no English was spoken) and toured some beautiful tributaries while appreciating the sights of the local back-waters.

That little fella gave us one phat "Hello"

That little fella gave us one phat “Hello”

Fishing big on a Mekong tributary

Fishing big on a Mekong tributary

In the afternoon, we headed back to HCMC/Saigon. It was a day earlier than originally planned since I still had to contend with the ‘crown situation’ and I had been in touch with our hotel who recommended a local English-speaking dentist where I could get my crown re-attached. We had purchased our bus tickets through our hotel, and as if often the case, it was hard to tell exactly where the bus station was located. Once there, we could take a local bus to our hotel. It sounded pretty easy, though, it was confusing to find the right local bus. It turned out we only had to go a few stops and it was even a walkable distance to our hotel.

I was right on time for my dentist appointment which turned out to be only a few minutes walk from our hotel. I entered the office and was immediately directed to take off my flip-flops and to put theirs on. I waited about 5 minutes and then saw a hygienist who sent me upstairs to see the dentist after a quick look in my mouth. I met the dentist who did indeed speak English and had been practicing dentistry for 8 years….though, how much conversation do you really have with a dentist anyway? For about $10 he re-installed my crown and off I went!

The last day in HCMC was spent walking around and relaxing. We would not be seeing Aaron again for a long time since he’d decided he would probably return to teaching English in South Korea.

We tried our best to seek out some last great meals. We enjoyed our time in Vietnam, the sights, the food and of course, the people. They were so friendly, open and helpful. Oh, and did I mention the food?…heck yeah! We’re going to miss that, too.

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Goin’ South-Vietnam style

Goin’ South-Vietnam style

Hue was the seat of the Nguyen empire which had a relatively short reign. It began at the start of the 19th century and ended with Emperor Bao Dai abdicating with the rise of the communist regime in the north just after WWII. We toured the former capital staying only a couple of days. Known also for its bad weather, we took a pedicab ride which quickly turned very wet with a torrential downpour. We were completely enclosed in out cabs except for a slit in the plastic between the top and the transparent plastic rain cover.

At least we were traveling in the direction of the rest of the traffic....I think.

At least we were traveling in the direction of the rest of the traffic….I think.

While in Hue (pron. “way”), we took a guided tour of the DMZ, Khe Sanh, the Ho Chi Minh trail and the tunnels at Vinh Moc village. When we shopped for this popular tour, we talked to our hotel, as well as some local tour agents, eventually opting for the “cheap” (their word) tour vs the VIP tour. (Travel agents insisted on using the word, “Veep” for VIP. I not totally sure, but through our travels I got the impression that “V.I.P.” is used to refer to communist officials.) You don’t always get what you pay for here, and this was one example. The VIP tour would have been $30 pp, but instead we opted for the cheap tour and paid about half. We had a private car/SUV and only had to share our guide with two others. It didn’t include lunch, but since that only cost $5.25 for two, I’d say we got a good deal.

Our tour guide was excellent. Not only was her english very good, but she was willing to field some questions which edged on religion and politics. It was exciting to visit historic places I had read and heard about so many times. At the same time, I felt fortunate to have come of age just after both the draft and war had ended.

The Bell UH-1, popularly known as the "Huey"

The Bell UH-1, popularly known as the “Huey”

The so-called Demilitarized Zone was one of the most militarized and embattled places in the world. I bristled at the anti-American propaganda in the building at Khe Sahn but recalled the U.S. military’s inflated body-counts and fear-mongering our own government used to keep us engaged in a conflict most Americans did not want to be in. After all, we were not at war; this was a “police action”.

The remaining tunnels at Vinh Moc were kept to their original size. They featured some of the same dorky life-sized mannequins we’d seen in other Vietnamese museums, though, they did give an idea of what life was like underground. There were many ‘rooms’ about 4′ X 5′ off the tunnels used by families of 4.

Underground life in Vinh Moc tunnels

Underground life in Vinh Moc tunnels

From Hue we continued our journey south to Hoi An. Only a few years ago it was a pretty sleepy town primarily known for its cloth and customized suit tailoring. There are many historic buildings and is a UNESCO world heritage site. At one time it was a major trading port. Now it’s a heavy tourist center with touts and hawkers aggressively selling their wares. We toured the local market and tried to get off the beaten track to see genuine local life.

Some locals enjoying a cock-fight

Some locals enjoying a cock fight

A typhoon hit while we visited. Since Hue lies low along the coast, it’s very vulnerable to flooding and was devastated as recently as 2006. Residents were very concerned since they knew the dangers and the long-lasting impact it can have on their lives. Our hotel lost power for a short time but fortunately had a generator as a back up. We went for a walk after the majority of the storm had passed and saw lots of tree and some building damage. The most dramatic scene we saw was around the inlet where the water lapsed the street’s edge so far it encroached on to the next one parallel to it.

typhoon flood

I was itching for some physical activity and Cindy wanted some rest, so she stayed in Hoi An while I went to the central highlands town of Dalat for some hiking and mountain biking. All over-night buses are not the same as I found out on the way. The last overnight bus we took had a tv, a toilet and was almost exclusively ridden by Vietnamese passengers. This one was filled with foreign backpacks and had no toilet, though, it did make several rest stops. At about 8:30pm we got a flat tire. I was impressed that a) they drove the bus with a flat for about 20 minutes, and b) they didn’t take much more than 10 minutes to swap the out the flat for a spare. While riding on the flat, I heard a couple of passengers voice dismay as we passed a gas filling station, the usual go-to spot for a western to fix a flat. We rode on for another 10-15 minutes before stopping at a house/garage to get it repaired.

In the morning I had arrived in Nha Trang and had to change buses for the trip to the mountains inland. I was told it would leave at 8am, but as is often the case, that was wrong information. I was pleasantly surprised when I only had to wait one hour and hopped on a newer and more comfortable bus that would take me to Dalat. Sure enough, we left the city and in short time started our ascent along the road that followed the contours of hills. As we rose in altitude the valley floor got more distant and the mountains got more steep. I was excited!

The highlands around Dalat proved an excellent antidote to physical malaise. For the first time on this journey, I arrived without reserving a room ahead of time, so my first order of business was to find a hotel. Since it’s the slow season it’s easy to score a decent room and did so with the help of my Lonely Planet guide. Once I did that, I toured “The Crazy House” which was the brain-child of the daughter of the second President of North Vietnam who studied architecture in Moscow before returning in 1975. A partially completed fantasy house, once I got over the heebie-jeebies of high-flying outdoor walkways with 2 foot-high rails, I thought it was quite creative. I’m certain the only thing that saved it from destruction by the communist party was the position of the creator’s father.

Just a bit of The Crazy House

Just a bit of The Crazy House

A bit more of the Crazy House

A bit more of the Crazy House

The first full day was spent on an 18 km trek through Tiger Waterfall park. The trek traverses park lands, as well as, privately owned farmlands primarily used for growing coffee; Vietnam is now the world’s second largest exporter of coffee. The locals like it strong and sludge-like. It was pretty much a private trek since it was myself and two guides, Loc and The, the later learning the route for future guiding expertise.

Vietnamese coffee. Mmmmm

Vietnamese coffee. Mmmmm

Vietnam also specialize in “Weasel Coffee”. Weasels are caught in the wild and/or bred to eat coffee. They fully digest the shells but expel the coffee beans which are then processed in the same manner as the three other types: Robusta, Mocha, and Arabica. Locals swear Weasel coffee tastes better than the other types. I can’t offer an opinion as it was too late in the day to try it and I didn’t get the chance for a single cup later in the trip.

I've got something for you!

I’ve got something for you!

The mountain bike ride was supposed to be about 37km but we had to alter the route due to flooding. It was so muddy that in one spot the mud went as deep as the hub on my wheel. The revised route clocked in at a total of 45km and featured more than a few pretty good climbs. Since I hadn’t been doing any thing close to the level before I left home, it was no picnic. Also, I decided to wear my sandals so I wouldn’t have to deal with the potential of drying wet shoes, but those proved a bit challenging as they were slippery on the pedals. My legs a bit sore when I got back but still felt like I wanted to do more. I am missing biking and it occurred to me on more than one occasion that Vietnam would be a great place to tour by bicycle.

Loc told me, "You are very old, but very strong!"

Loc told me, “You are very old, but very strong!”

I got back to Ho Chi Minh City to reconnect with Cindy and the next day we were joined by Aaron for a partial (we’re missing Ali!) family reunion as he had finished his trek to Mt. Everest base camp and would travel with us again for a days. HCMC is still called Saigon by many people and it was pretty much as we had anticipated. A vibrant, fast-moving metropolis dominated by the preferred Vietnamese method of travel, the motorscooter. I was told they outnumber cars by 10-1 but it seemed to me to be higher.

Streets of Ho Chi Minh City; still called Saigon by many

Streets of Ho Chi Minh City; many still call it Saigon

Some of the sights were from the ‘department of redundancy’ department, like a war museum, more war-time tunnels and a Ho Chi Minh museum, so we didn’t stay long, opting to explore the Mekong Delta south of the city.

Funny transliterations abound. I couldn't resist posting at least one of them

Funny signs abound. I couldn’t resist posting at least one of them

As expected, the food has been amazingly good with some areas featuring regional specialties. The one or two meals we had that were sub-par made us feel like we’d been short-changed and looking forward to the next meal that much more.

The beauty of Vietnam

The beauty of Vietnam

We’ve covered a lot of ground since the last post. We left Hanoi and took an overnight train to the Hoang Lien mountains, formerly called the Tolkinese Alps by the French, located in the northwest of the country and bordering China. We stayed in the town of Sapa, a sprawling tourist town with massive building projects.

Cindy snug in her berth on the way to Sapa

Cindy snug in her berth on the way to Sapa


View from our guest house

View from our guest house

While in Sapa we did a couple of treks to Black Hmong tribal villages. They are small in stature so Cindy felt right at home, happy to be among people her height or even shorter. These people were primarily rice farmers but now made a living by guiding tours through their villages and touting their beautiful embroidery. They were not very skilled as touts but they were assertive and persistent as hell; so much so, I’d rank them number two behind the Egyptians. You could politely tell them ”no” but you had to tell them often. In the morning there were parades of tourists walking down the street surrounded by several HMoung woman.

The daily parade

The daily parade

Cindy's feeling the heat

Cindy’s feeling the heat

There are many Hmong in the USA as they fought alongside the Americans against the communists during the war. I tried to engage in conversations around that but was rebuffed, either because they didn’t know or they didn’t want to talk about it.

Among the H'Mong

Among the Hmong

Oddly, renting a geared-bicycle was almost twice the cost of renting a motorbike/scooter– $9 vs $5. I rented a bike one day to ride up the mountains to see the “Silver” waterfall. It was a nice waterfall but nothing too spectacular. I savored the ride up the gorge more than the destination.

On the road to the Silver Waterfall

On the road to the Silver Waterfall

Terraced rice paddies

Terraced rice paddies

After 3 days in Sapa we turned around to take the overnight train back to Hanoi where we would pick up our tour to Ha Long Bay, one of the expected highlights of Vietnam. We arranged a tour through our Hanoi hotel’s agent to take a bus to our boat where we would sleep one night, getting picked up in the morning and taken to Cat Ba Island. The (touted) expression goes, “If you haven’t seen Ha Long Bay, you haven’t seen Vietnam”. It was a spectacular scene: karsts rising out of the bay in various shapes and forms.

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay

Of course, with such a reputation, even in low season it’s crowded with tour boats. And when we got to the featured cave, that was as packed with people as we’d seen in China. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like in high season.

Cave at Ha Long

Our guide, Too, was quite the mother-hen keeping our crowd moving along with each activity like kayaking and passing along gentle instructions to passengers who took the challenge of jumping off the second floor deck into the bay…don’t stick your arms out, make sure no one’s below when you jump, etc… Despite the overly cautious routine, I liked Too and gave him a guitar lesson. It was fun for me, too, watching his face light up with all the new things he never knew he could do. It should keep him busy for a long time.

Sunset on Ha Long Bay

Sunset on Ha Long Bay

Early the next morning we got picked up by a ferry-boat where we ate breakfast while getting transferred to another boat which would take us to Cat Ba Island. Just after we ate breakfast, our Cat Ba-bound boat picked up a few new passengers, two of which were Aussies, Chris and Nat, who were our Sapa to Hanoi train cabin mates! We had a great time chewing the fat with them once again.

Cat Ba National Park.  We climbed to the tower on the summit.

Cat Ba National Park. We climbed to the tower on the summit.

The boat passengers were greeted at the dock by a bus which took most of us to the national park for a two-hour hike to the summit of the highest mountain. More fantastic scenery!

Ngu Lam Peak

View from Ngu Lam Peak

We settled into our hotel on Cat Ba Island for a couple of days. I was getting over a bit of a cold which Cindy was just picking up. I rented a motor-bike for a day and explored quite a bit of the island including a former hospital which had been built into a mountain. It was totally empty but quite the facility in its day caring for wounded soldiers who had been transported there by hand or bicycle. After touring it, I stopped in the cafe/restaurant across the street and sat down with a couple of locals and a french tourist for a chat. This was not an unusual occurrence. I found the Vietnamese people really friendly and often inviting to sitting down and talk. Sometimes somewhat difficult as the conversation can be a bit limited due to the language barrier, but always a rewarding human experience and always memorable.

This crazy Frenchman just caught a chicken!

This crazy Frenchman just caught a chicken!

In the afternoon I explored Cat Ba harbor where I helped a local woman with a cargo dolly who then got me to help her unload her charge of 6 50-lb blocks of ice. I got a kick out of it. Good thing I’m still in decent physical shape. Afterwards I took off for the “Cannon Fort” which was a hilltop battery of two large cannons used in the WWII era. Now a museum and park. This was also where the locals came to get their exercise by walking up the mountain, the men typically wearing white “wife-beater” t-shirts.

Cat Ba Bay

Cat Ba Bay

To get to Nihn Bihn (roughly pron. Ning Bing) we had to take a bus-boat-bus-bus combo. Not much to Nihn Bihn itself but some great sights surround it. They were spread out so once again, we rented a motor-bike; a bit more hairy this time as we had to travel on main roads dodging, weaving and negotiating the chaotic traffic. Like other SE Asian countries I’d been to, there is a propensity to drive (and bicycle) down the street the wrong way increasing the challenge a notch or two.

I needed to gas up and stopped a woman on a side-street for directions. Not only did she lead me to the gas station on her own motorbike, but she paid for my gas! Wow. That was totally unexpected. She didn’t speak but a word or two of english so I tried to show my appreciation as best I could with my Vietnamese thank you, “Cam Oon”!

Perhaps the most awesome scenery and viewpoints was at a place called Tam Coc. As planned, we went late in the day when it would be quiet. We boarded a row-boat rowed by a woman. Most of the rowers have a very interesting technique.

Maybe not the best career move for this gal, but admittedly, she had skills

Maybe not the best career move for this gal, but admittedly, she had skills

The prices for many things are really cheap. We paid $6.60 for a 1.5 hour ride.

The whole area around Ninh Binh was dominated by dramatic karsts, though, here rise from fresh water. I found them as fascinating and no less spectacular than Ha Long Bay.

Tam Coc karsts

Tam Coc karsts

The next day, we hiked above the scenes we’d been a day earlier.

High above

And then we left Nihn Bihn for Hue……………

I’m writing this from a totally new perspective. I just got on a sleeper-bus which had three two-decker rows consisting of 6 seats each, though, the seat fully reclines which is a functional bed once fully extended–definitely made for the local (read: shorter) market since I’ve maxed out the unit at 5’10”. A Vietnamese soap is playing on the screen in front and the acting and direction is really bad. I’d heard about these buses and could have taken the (more expensive) train option but wanted to try it. It’s hard to argue with the price– $15 for an approximately 9-hour ride from Ninh Binh to Hue. Maybe I’ll even get a good night sleep.

Hanoi culture and museums

Hanoi culture and museums

We soaked in as much of Hanoi as possible. And we ate as much food as possible, too! We did a lot of walking around the Old City, visited a bunch of museums and went to see a Traditional Water Puppet Show– an art form that originated in the rice paddies.

Water puppets

Water puppets

The Ho Chi Minh residence was fascinating. “Uncle Ho” as he is known, is the father of modern-day Vietnam, a revered figure for his leadership in the liberation of the country and government-sponsored cult personality. The vestigial site was where he worked and lived for the years before his death in 1969 was built behind the opulent Presidential Palace; it’s a simple house and living quarters in a quiet, peaceful setting.

Uncle Ho's stilt house

Uncle Ho’s stilt house

I couldn’t help but wonder what he would have thought if he walked out of his house every day to see what we saw upon exiting.

Leaving Ho's former residence. Now part of The Pepsi Generation.

Leaving Ho’s former residence. Now part of The Pepsi Generation.

Like China, calling Vietnam a communist country is comical. Communism is an unsustainable system, though, it would appear socialism is alive and well in both countries as you see uniformed civil servants working in various capacities. But the market-oriented reforms of the 80’s and 90’s created a lot of capitalist entrepreneurs. The effect has created tremendous growth.

For sale

For sale

Politically, what remains are single-party oligarchies which operate in opaque theaters. The voluminous and wide-spread corruption is notorious.

A Soviet MIG

A Soviet MIG

The Army Museum featured lots of old military memorabilia, some history and, of course, a bit of propaganda. There was some cross-over from the History Museum. Having done a fair amount of research, I can’t help but empathize with a people who have had to defend their country from invaders from millennia. Interlopers came from China, Mongolia, France, Cambodia and the US. Aside from the pursuit of the Khmer Rouge after they invaded Vietnam, I don’t think the Vietnamese invaded any other countries.

The Vietnam Women’s Museum focuses on women and ethnicity, women and the national struggle, women and traditional clothing, and women’s cultural traits expressed through handicrafts. One of the exhibits was a film created collaboratively with Connecticut College about the lives of female street vendors we’d seen throughout Hanoi. They live difficult lives coming to the city from country villages to earn money in support of their families back home. They had been somewhat of a mystery and we gained a great appreciation of their struggles.

street vendor

The National Museum of Vietnamese History.

The National Museum of Vietnamese History.

The National Museum of Vietnamese History is housed in a huge colonial building. One of the displays in the museum featured a neolithic-era mother breast-feeding her child. Something like that would never make it into a museum back in the states.

The irony is inescapable because as they proudly display artifacts highlighting scientific certainty, political realities are sometimes brushed aside.

Whoa. That last one is in the wrong place!

Whoa. That last one is in the wrong place!

Zen and the Occidental Tourist

Zen and the Occidental Tourist

The first thing the mind wants to do when arriving in a new place is to scan the memory ‘banks’ looking for the familiar, whether it’s language, customs, faces, print….anything that your brain can cling to in the hopes of regaining some kind of familiarity or comfortably when faced with a totally new situation. And although Vietnam has its own distinctly unique peoples, customs, history, government, nationality and so forth, it’s irresistible to arrive from China and make comparisons as there are many similarities. The biggest stand-out is the Confucian influence; strong family bonds, deference to elders and respect for parents, teachers and other authoritative or hierarchical figures. This is no surprise as China invaded Vietnam several times throughout history and dominated the country for several periods totaling several hundred years.

Turtle Tower, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

Turtle Tower, Hoan Kiem Lake

We left the high rises that dominate Chinese city skylines to land among the rural setting of Hanoi International Airport. It was turning dark so we didn’t see much on the way to our hotel from the airport. But it was clear we were not in Kansas….er, Chengdu anymore. Our first real encounter was purchasing our visa. Gone were the efficient, orderly lines we’d seen in China (around government officials, anyway). We had gotten our visas before arriving in Vietnam but had not paid for them yet. Despite having the necessary paperwork, there were still forms to fill out and lines to be negotiated before entry. We made our way around the visa line which looked more like a small mob by the time we got to see the officers. Since we didn’t have the required $45 US dollars or Vietnamese Dong, we needed to pay with Chinese Yuan but were unsure if that was even possible, or how the process would work. We were somewhat fortunate enough to watch three others who were in the same situation. They were able to pay the fee in Yuan but paid a premium at $63 each. This was a huge ‘mark-up’ so I calculated how much $45 would be in Yuan and then tried to hide my Yuan as I counted it out. Unfortunately the immigration officer saw me counting it and asked for (or actually, demanded) more than the Y550. We paid $58 for each visa and the whole process was quite arbitrary. So depending how you look at it, we either overpaid by $13 each or saved $5 each. Still, we paid a premium and it was a lesson in preparing for foreign entry and visa fees. It was also a lesson in how things are done here. Later, we would get a better exchange rate for our remaining Yuan on the black market vs going to a bank.

Hang Hanh Street, Hanoi

Hang Hanh Street, Hanoi

Once at our hotel, we were in the old quarter of Hanoi and it was brewing big. The streets were an ocean of motorbikes. There were so many that they could only move along so fast in the massive traffic. There was music coming from bars and people sat on the sidewalks with their friends and family sipping cold drinks, eating sunflower seeds or just hanging out. I passed one bar which had a local guitar and keyboard duet belting out a pretty good rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally”.

Typical street scene. Lots of motorbikes.

Typical street scene. Lots of motorbikes.

Our first museum was a visit to Hoa Lo prison, sarcastically called “The Hanoi Hilton” by Vietnam era American prisoners of war. The land was originally a village known for its pottery-ware but was taken over by the French colonialists who built the prison for political prisoners. Hoa Lo means “hell’s hole” and the atrocities committed there are almost unspeakable.

Hoa Lo prison aka "The Hanoi Hilton"

Hoa Lo prison aka “The Hanoi Hilton”

Guillotine at Hoa Lo prison

Guillotine at Hoa Lo prison

Cindy was galled by the highly propagandist information regarding the good treatment of American POW’s but I was prepared for its viewing which provided some solace. I found it ironic that Vietnamese were tortured (and executed) at the hands of the French and created the museum to document the horrors which, during their continued war for their independence, they perpetrated some of the same crimes. That those facts are omitted are a sad statement of politics getting in the way of the truth.

Politics aside, we’re having a great time and are enjoying Hanoi. The people are friendly, the sights are fresh and the food is great!

Is that a piece of eel sticking out of Cindy's mouth? Why, yes it is!

Is that a piece of eel sticking out of Cindy’s mouth? Why, yes it is!