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Posts Tagged ‘Hanoi’


There is a really unusual honor, tradition, trend in Communist and former Communist countries of laying out the mummified bodies of the leaders upon death. Russia has Lenin, China has Mao, North Korea has Kim Il Sung, and of course, Vietnam has Uncle Ho. What trip to Hanoi would be complete without witnessing this oddity, side show, waxy piece of mummified history?

I arrived early in the morning hoping to avoid long lines, and met a huge crowd already waiting. Luckily, the lines, while long, moved quickly.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the Mausoleum, but were able to explore the grounds, which included a museum, and the Presidential Palace (in yellow, above). It was a little creepy witnessing the body, which honestly looked far more like a wax dummy. Apparently, the body travels back to Moscow for a couple of months each year for “maintenance.” Viewers walk around the casket on three sides. and there are armed and bayoneted guards at each corner of the casket.

Interestingly, Ho Chi Minh never wanted to be mummified. He preferred to be cremated, and have his ashes scattered in Vietnam as a symbol of a unified country. I guess even atheist ideologies need their communist, god, saints to believe in.

Afterwards, I went to the Hanoi War Museum:

Feeling a little overwhelmed with war, history, and even propaganda, I decided I needed some cultural influences. My next stop was the Temple of Literature, a Confucius temple, and the first national university in Vietnam.

I ended the night with a performance at the Water Puppet Theatre, a night market, and some pho from a street vendor.

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It was a bitterly cold morning as I waited for the bus that would take me to Incheon. Snow was lightly falling, it was dark, and all I could think about was sunshine and blessed heat. Because my two public schools had waited so long to finalize our winter break, I had decided to go to Hanoi, Vietnam.

On the bus to the airport, I kept checking and re checking my passport and Visa papers. Vietnam has a slightly more complicated set of Visa requirements, and I had pre-arranged Visa approval through myvietnamvisa.com. If one does not have the correct papers or pre-arranged approval, they will not be allowed on the plane. Upon arriving at Incheon, I was checked in easily, and made my way to the gate. Quietly checking last-minute messages before boarding, I suddenly heard my name being called over the speakers. With a sense of dread, I approached the counter, half expecting visa issues. At the counter, it was explained to me that the flight was overbooked, and I was offered a free upgrade to Business!

Yes, please!

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Champagne toast to new adventures!

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This was my first flight in Business Class. I tend to be a frugal traveler, and prefer to save my money for side trips when I’m actually in a new place. I must say, I understand why some people never fly anything but Business/First. The food is amazing, and it’s so, so much more comfortable than Economy.

I arranged for a pick up at the airport in Hanoi by my hotel. Arriving in the Old Quarter, I dumped my bags, grabbed my camera, and just wandered.

Pictures can’t truly capture Hanoi. The smell of gas and diesel. The fear of being hit by a moto.

Hanoi definitely has an energy unlike any place I have ever been!

Tired and developing a bit of a headache from all of the fumes, I decided to have dinner and call it a night. I wandered to a restaurant near my hotel that was famous for Cha Ca ( Fried fish, rice noodles, pepper, peanuts, onions and mint. Amazing!) Sitting upstairs in a quiet room, I realized the host was showing another person into the room. Quickly looking up, and then doing a double take, I nearly choked. I swear Adrien Brody was standing there as the host was checking the room for something he had lost or left. The entire encounter only lasted for a minute or so, and I was too in shock to say anything or ask for a picture!

I’m still kicking myself!

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