Flashback – Hanoi, Vietnam

We spent the next several days visiting with another family friend (Meg and I actually stayed at her flat while my parents stayed at a nearby hotel) touring Hanoi. Coming to Vietnam for the first time held a special place in Meg and my heart for different reasons. For Meg, as you learned in her post about Luang Prabang, it was because she had a long-lasting interest in Communist revolutions and the war in Vietnam since high school. For me, because I am ethnically Vietnamese, but had never been to Vietnam before.  (My birth mom had me in Houston, Texas where my parents adopted me). So I was curious to see the Vietnamese culture firsthand. I also wanted to see if I saw striking physical similarities between people I saw in Hanoi and me. Ironically, several people we came across in the city didn’t believe I was Vietnamese! They thought I was either from Singapore or Hawaii. “Somewhere near water”, as they explained. My parents, Meg, and I thought maybe it was because we were in Northern Vietnam and my birth mom was from Southern Vietnam? I guess we’ll all have to take another trip back to Vietnam to investigate. 😉

We visited Hoa Lo Prison or the Hanoi Hilton. This was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Senator John McCain was among the many detained here.

Walls of Hanoi Hilton.

I bought some paintings at a shop downtown.

One day Meg and I parted ways with my parents to take a day trip to Halong Bay. Halong Bay is another UNESCO World Heritage site and is located in Quang Ninh province. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Meg and I boarded a boat with our tour guide and several other tourists to explore the beautiful bay.

Leaving the port.

Meg and I with our tour guide Tuyen.
Something to chuckle about: when she asked what my ethnicity was and I said Vietnamese she looked and me, laughed, and said “no”.

Coming up to a cave we would explore.

The beautiful cave.

After a morning and afternoon of boat riding, cave hopping, and more sightseeing we were ready to do something else active. Go swimming in the bay! To this day I find it hysterical that Meg chose not only an exotic country’s ocean to end her fear of swimming in the ocean (she had never been in the ocean prior to this), but in an ocean that was littered with jellyfish floating around. We had seen tons of them from aboard the boat throughout the day…but as they say, “when in Vietnam”!

Our captain found a patch of water where we didn’t see any jellyfish lurking about. He dropped anchor and Meg, a sweet British couple we met on the tour and befriended, and me played in the water for about 45 minutes. Our favorite part was jumping off the boat into the water.

There she goes! Needless to say, after her first jump she was HOOKED.

I mean, it is quite possible the bottle of wine she and I shared prior to this swimming adventure had a little something to do with this act of courage.

To celebrate Meg’s triumphant accomplishment she and I shared another bottle of wine as we toweled off and headed back to shore.

The next day, back on dry land, we headed to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum.

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a large memorial in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is located in the center of Ba Dinh Square, which is the place where Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

We went to the Temple of Literature. It is a temple of Confucius. The temple hosts the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first national university.

We also interacted with the locals…

The dreaded ciclo driver. He only took us about 100 feet to our restaurant and we had agreed on 40,000 dong (about $2). When we arrived at the restaurant I got out a 100,000 dong note and asked if he had change. He then swiped the bill out of my hand. Needless to say this created a spectacle on the street between my dad and the ciclo driver.

In a blink of an eye, our Vietnam adventure was over. We could hardly believe it when we boarded the plane back to Bangkok where we’d stay for one day and night before heading to our respective homes.

Our great Southeast Asia trip was a huge success!

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Flashback – Hanoi, Vietnam

  1. Meg

    Post-bar trip. Let’s go back!

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