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Dragons to Dungeons

With as nice as Halong Bay is, it is time to say goodbye and be onwards to Vietnam’s capitol of Hanoi.  Located on the Northern side of the country it used to be separate from the south before the end of the Vietnam war.  Once the American troops pulled out and the north descended upon Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), the separation was cut and the two were merged and reunited to be one country.

The road from Halong to Hanoi is pretty boring…not much to see besides other vehicles and small towns.  I saw a few more dog/cat meat restaurants but did not feel the urge to stop and investigate more.  Arrive in Hanoi, wash up and plan the site visits and see what there is to see!

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Nearly there! Hanoi is only a few minutes away

There is a lot to see and do in Hanoi as well – of course depending on what your interests are.  Military history is everywhere and covers when the French occupied the region to present day activities.  A visit to Hoa Lo Prison (aka Hanoi Hilton as the prisoners referred to it as) is a must see and so is the Military History museum – and a less known site is the B-52 Crash site in Hanoi where a plane was shot down and crashed in a lake.

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A model of Hoa Lo Prison.  Most of the prison has been knocked down save one corner of it that is now the museum.

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There are two sections to the prison – the section when the French held Vietnamese people and the section when American troops were held captive – two very different feelings in how treatment of captives was done.  The above image is a main room that depicts Vietnamese captives being locked by the legs to the tables and in tight quarters.

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The guillotine that was used to behead traitors when the French occupied Vietnam

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Pictures above show the Vietnamese treating Americans with respect and allowing them to play basketball in the courts

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John McCain’s flight suit – still here from when he was captured

So two different images portrayed on prisoner treatment – whats true and whats staged can all be speculated and is a matter of interpretation in the eyes of the presenter.  As has been said multiple times before – history is written by the victorious – and there again its disputed as to whether the north “won” or if America “pulled out” of Vietnam – Both countries teach a different outcome in history.

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Some of the many military equipment on display at the military museum.  A lot of the equipment is captured American stuff

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Wreckage of another B52 and its engines

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A cluster bomb that was used in the war. A cutaway example of the explosives

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The lake that the B52 wreckage is in…Still there and in its original state.  There is also a cafe called “Cafe B52” nearby

To get away from so much war museum activities and to change pace a bit – I also went to the Temple of Literature which is over 1000 years old and has been a location of academics and historical preservation since and was also Vietnam’s first university for nearly 700 years.  In addition to this temple, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a large complex that has a Museum and the living quarters and some cars that Vietnam’s first president (Ho Chi Minh) used during his time in office and the war.  His body is embalmed and on display at the tomb and is open only certain hours with extremely strong security at all times.  I did not have the chance to go into the actual Mausoleum because I came at the wrong time and it was closed.

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The Temple of Literature – a large complex full of trees and pagodas

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Some of the stone manuscripts – there are many rows of these – all carried on turtles backs

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Pools full of lilypads and flowers

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Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum.  Large complex and is guarded by military  – all wearing pure white.  The museum was interesting…It was definitely one sided and felt full of propaganda from the political party.

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Some of the cars used by the president.

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The house on stilts used by Ho Chi Minh

To learn more about the regional history and the history of all the cultures in Vietnam – the Museum of Ethnology is a fantastic place – and I think its a must see.  Covering the 54 ethnic groups the are recognized in Vietnam, you see everything from the homes they built, the food they ate, the tools that were used, the clothing, the religions and actual religious texts – even two old Korans are on display!  Outside there are real examples of homes that one can tour and walk through – complete with straw roofs and bamboo flooring.

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This is a real persons bicycle.  He would ride it to market and sell the fish traps that you see pictured here!

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Proof!  Riding a bike like this takes talent!

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A scroll Koran – there was no date on this item

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Another Koran – dated back to the 19th century

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An example of one of the homes.  The tall roof is completely open on the inside. Bottom is bamboo and one large open space.

Hanoi is Vietnam’s second largest city to Saigon but only has one Mosque.  There is a smaller community in the area but attending the mosque was a great experience.  A lot of Arabs and Indians were present and many speaking Arabic.  I was expecting more Vietnamese people speaking Vietnamese and not so many other languages.  Surrounded by halal restaurants it was certainly the Muslim hang out location.  With everyone fasting right now, Ill have to return for Iftar and meet some more people!

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Al-Noor Mosque – Hanoi’s only mosque located near the Old Quarter

With so much done and so much to do its really a great city.  Lots of places to see and hang out.  I have made it to my last destination in Vietnam and it is time to sell my trusty companion – Philip.  He treated me well and its now time for him to move on to a new owner and will be able to treat them well also. I have spent a few days exploring this city and finally decided I dont need the motorbike anymore.  I placed an ad in a few places and got an interested buyer – came by, tested the bike out and made the purchase.  Philip will be riding back towards Saigon again with the guide of a fellow backpacker from NYC.  Good luck Sophia and ride safe! Its definitely an exciting journey and you wont regret it.IMG_4640 Dragons to Dungeons

There goes Philip to continue a new journey. Ill miss that trusty bike.

Spent a few days in Hanoi – saw all I want to see, sold the motorbike and am ready for the next adventure.  Going to add Hong Kong to the itinerary and see the hustle and bustle of the place that doesn’t call themselves Chinese, but is partially governed by China and still has their own set of rules and regulations.  Thank you Vietnam for a fantastic time.  I have had an absolute blast from coming into the country with no plan to getting a motorbike to getting roasted by the sun and experiencing some of the best scenery I have ever seen.  Ill be back to explore more, but until then, Cheers!

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