Day 3 in Hanoi starts off slow and easy. Leaving the hotel at 11:30am, the traveller and his compadre walk along Ho Tay (the West Lake). Along the lake is the Tran Quoc Pagoda. It is closed by the time he reaches… The morning wave of tourists has already passed, and it will reopen at 1:30pm.
Walking towards Ba Dinh square, we come across a statue of Ly Tu Trong, a 17 year old revolutionary hero who was captured and executed by the French in 1931. (The French were the colonial rulers of Vietnam at the time). The traveller imagines the turbulence of those times, the idea of socialism and revolution sweeping across nations.
Crossing the park a tree with creepers along its side catches our eye.
Soon we are at Ba Dinh square. This is where President Ho Chi Minh read out the declaration of independence of Vietnam in 1945. Located in the square is his mausoleum, an imposing granite structure flanked by guards in ceremonial uniform.
Next to the mausoleum is a banner that reads (translated) “Long live The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam”
Near the square are various other government buildings and what appear to be embassies of other nations. French colonial style architecture is common here.
It is now time for lunch. We sample some Pho, Vietnamese noodle soup. It is starting to rain, and the warm broth of this simple and nourishing dish refreshes the traveller.
And what’s an afternoon in Hanoi without some Ca Phe Sua Da, the super tasty coffee-and-sweet-condensed-milk combo!
Our tummies content, we head toward the Citadel, an ancient structure dating back to dynasties in the 10th century. At the entrance are hordes of high school kids posing for what appears to be a graduation photo shoot.
There is a vast complex inside where archeological excavations have revealed a number of relics from the imperial era such as pottery.
In more recent history, this was the military headquarters of the People’s Army of North Vietnam that was at war with the Americans. The D67 bunker is fascinating to explore, with its meeting rooms and war artifacts like old telephones, radio systems and diaries of military leaders. The traveller imagines the tense moments and decisions taken here that changed the course of the Vietnam war and the Indo-China region.
The day’s excursion has been steeped in political and military history. It is time to head back to the city streets for some light entertainment.
On our way back, the traveller’s compadre suddenly sees a mysterious object flying across her and lying sprawled on the street. It is the traveller himself, author of this blog, having slipped on a wet pavement. After buying out every first aid kit the local pharmacy has in stock, only a few minor scratches and bruises are uncovered, apart from the hurt to the ego.
Hanoi is preparing to usher in the new year and the city is all decked up. We walk by St Joseph’s Cathedral and then toward the lake where a Heineken stage has been set up.
We check out the backpacker district and end up at a small pub where a local band is playing. I ask them the name of their band. Clearly it doesn’t have one yet… “The New Year Band!” jokes one of the lead vocalists as we enjoy covers of Western and Asian numbers, ending our last night in Hanoi. Next up, Ho Chi Minh city.
Pictures and videos taken with my Apple iPhone SE
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