Sunday, May 9, 2021

Humans of Hanoi Vietnam

Here's one from the travel diary from a different time. I hope we can return soon because it was unreal and I am so grateful to have had this experience.

Hanoi known as 'The Garden City', which it is, is heavily polluted but really goey and exciting. We stayed in the old quarter, which IMHO is the best place to stay. First mentioned in history in the 1600's, the roads are really narrow and the buildings are generally only 5 metres wide and 5 storeys high, but go back a long way. The rents are prohibitive so traders are less likely to bargain on price too.

We did a really interesting street food tour, which was pretty raw and authentic. Thereafter for the remainder of the trip, I stopped eating meat where I could. The Biggest Beach House Brat booked out on the tour and retreated to our gorgeous hotel room. Because we had kids they gave us the penthouse and my God it was fantastic and if I was single I would happily live in it. It was kind of like a cute NY loft.

On the food tour, the guide told us that because people couldn't read when the city developed the streets are named after what is sold there. So there is Silver St, Toy Street, Lantern St, Beer Street etc and still today you will find all the jewellery stores on Silver street, all the pubs on beer street and so on.

We also visited the French Quarter which is full of stunning French Colonial architecture, but it is so run down and looks like it hasn't been maintained since the French left in 1954. It all needs a good paint and reattaching of leaning window shutters etc. If they did that it could be absolutely stunning and a real tourist drawcard.

The French Quarter has a small replica of the Paris Opera House as the French seem to have wanted to build Hanoi as a Little Paris. The Opera House is lovely but you can't tour it and can only look inside if you are attending a performance, which I thought was a missed opportunity to relieve us of a few Viet Dong.

Also in the French Quarter is The Maison Centrale, otherwise known as the Hanoi Hilton by the American POWs who were imprisoned there. It was fascinating. The prison was built by the French in the 1800s and housed many Vietnamese revolutionaries. It was brutal and the headset describes how horrible the French were to the locals, which I am sure they were, whilst telling a very whitewashed story of how the American POW's were treated. The Yanks were tortured and beaten but of course, there are only shots of them playing basketball and having a grand old time. All the American prisoners were pilots who had been shot down after bombing Hanoi so you can understand why the locals were pissed off.

There is a whole section dedicated to Senator John McCain, who was shot down and landed in a lake in the CBD of Hanoi. He ended up spending about 8 years there and was beaten after not appearing grateful enough of his captors in an interview when initially caught. Very interesting.

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