40 days away
15 km / 9 miles since last post
23,432 km / 14,560 miles total
We took breakfast in the hotel, before meeting the rest of our group downstairs at 8am. Today we followed Thanh who took us to Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum complex.
Stu and I had walked around this area the other day, but it was only around the outside. Today we were actually going inside the mausoleum.
There are no bags, mobile phones or anything allowed inside the mausoleum, so Thanh waited outside with all of our stuff. Stu still did not feel confident about leaving his camera, and so he waited outside with Thanh.
There was a huge queue to get inside the mausoleum, and lots of school kids. However, the queue is constantly on the move so it doesn't take very long before you get inside.
Once entering the mausoleum you are told to be silent, and you continue to follow the queue through a couple of corridors and up some stairs until you enter the room where Ho Chi Minh's body is displayed.
It is a bit surreal as the first thing you see as you come into the room are his hands which are lit up inside the glass case containing his body. As you come further into the room you eventually see the whole body, with his face also in the light. I think I was expecting something looking a lot worse than I actually saw. His body looks almost like a waxwork as it has been preserved so well. You do wonder how much of it is what is left of his body, and how much of it is artificial.
You don't stay in the room very long because the queue of people stays on the move the whole way round. A weird experience it has to be said.
After the mausoleum we walked into the next area which houses the Presidential Palace and House On Stilts. The Presidential Palace is where the current President lives and works. Ho Chi Minh did live here at first, but apparently he was a simple man and had his house on stilts built and this is where he lived and worked from 1958 until his death in 1969. It was also explained to us that Ho Chi Minh only wanted a simple cremation when he died, and for his ashes to be distributed across Vietnam. Contrary to his wishes however, the large mausoleum was built and his body preserved for people to come and visit every day.
Throughout our walk around the complex today we went past many school children, and they all liked to wave at us and say hello - very sweet.
Next we went into the Ho Chi Minh museum next to the mausoleum. Here they had various historical artefacts, mainly photographs, newspaper clippings and handwritten documents. However, now and again they had unusual art exhibits which were displayed to represent certain periods of history and developments within the country. It was a bit of a strange mix of historic items and art - not sure what they were trying to do here.
Thanh said we had free time after this. As it was only about 10am we decided to have a bit of a walk around Hanoi, heading towards the Old Quarter to have a look at the markets there.
The group split off at this point, so Stu and I were with Natalie, Isabel, Monique and Mia for the rest of the afternoon.
We had a good look around the shops and markets in the Old Quarter - it was fascinating to look around and nobody really hassled you to buy things.
After an hour or so we found a cafe to grab a well needed drink, and then we continued our walk, but heading in the general direction back to our hotel.
By the time we got back we were all feeling hungry. We recommended a visit to Koto - a restaurant we now know well - as none of the rest of the group we were with had been there yet.
Everyone enjoyed lunch - a good choice I think!
In the evening we went to a water puppet theatre to watch a traditional performance of water puppetry. I'm not sure what any of us were expecting, and I have to say that Stu and I weren't overly excited about going.
The show lasted an hour and consisted of some musicians and singers at the side of the stage, and in the centre was where the water and puppetry took place. We weren't sure of the story being told as it was all sung and told in Vietnamese, but it was performed by people behind some scenery with the puppets out the front being held above the water.
It was a novelty to see it perhaps but I think we were all glad it was just an hour long!
We headed to a nearby restaurant for some food after the show. It was another good restaurant picked by Thanh. We are still ordering for and paying for our own dishes here - unlike in China where Ricky would order the dishes and then we would split the bill. It makes sense here though as the places we go all have menus in English and it is not the same style of food where you would necessarily share with the rest of the table.
We headed back to the hotel after food and Stu and I packed up a daypack for tomorrow before going to bed. We have our overnight boat trip tomorrow on Halong Bay and have been told not to bring our backpacks, but just a small rucksack. I'm not entirely sure why, I assume they don't want too much luggage being brought aboard and maybe they are worried about the safety of carrying it onto the boat. Anyway, it's not too much hassle to pack stuff into daypacks just for one night.
We are really looking forward to the boat trip though as Halong Bay is supposed to be beautiful. Thanh has already told us that it is probably the highlight of the trip. I just hope they have cleaner boats than in China!
Tomorrow we will be going on a walking tour in Hanoi to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex.