I did a fair bit of sightseeing on New Years Day, so I’ll try to cover most of it in this post.
The first stop was the old Hoa Lo Prison, best known to many as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ used to hold captured American pilots during the Vietnam War. However, the prison’s history goes back to 1869 when the French colonialists built it to hold thousands of Vietnamese freedom fighters. Following liberation from the French, the Vietnamese state used the prison to hold criminals and, later, the US servicemen.
Part of the prison was demolished in 1993 but what is left has been turned into a museum. Much of the museum explains the initial use by the French and the terrible conditions that prisoners were kept under. Interestingly, the narrative regarding the captured US pilots would have visitors believe that they were kept in the best possible conditions. I’m sure that those prisoners would disagree.
My next stop off the day was the Ho Chi Mihn Mausoleum, where the former leader’s body is on display. The mausoleum and adjacent museum were both closed at the time of my visit, so I could only see the outside.
Next to the Mausoleum is the One Pillar Pagoda that was built in 1049 by Emperor Ly Thai Tong.
Next up was the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. This facility has exhibitions split between two buildings – one housing Vietnamese history and the second for South East Asia in general. The grounds of the facility also hold several reconstructions of Vietnamese buildings as well as a water puppet theatre. Most of the signage includes an English description of the items on display.
Video: Traditional water puppet theatre show
My last sight-seeing stop was a small pond that still holds part of the wreckage of a USA B52 bomber that was shot down by the Vietnamese.
In the evening, I participated in a Street Food Walking Tour that lasted about 3.5 hours and took us to several street food stalls and small family restaurants. We got to taste several traditional Vietnamese foods as the guide gave us information on Vietnamese cuisine. This was an excellent tour that I highly recommend. The food was excellent!
The food that we tasted along the tour is listed below:
1. Banh cuon : Rolling steamed cake ( minced pork, mushroom, fried onion, mini shrimp, pork pipe with cinnamon flavor)
2. Bun bo nam bo : Rice noodles with beef with Southern style
3. Banh chuoi & banh khoai : Banana and sweet potato cake
4. Thit xien nuong : Grilled pork on bamboo stick
5. Bun dau : Rice noodles with fried tofu & pork pipe with young rice flavor
6. Rau muong xao : Fried water morning glory with garlics
7. Che : Sweet soup
8. Bun cha : Rice noodles with grilled pork
9. Cafe trung & cacao trung : Egg coffee & egg chocolate
The tour was conducted by “Jay Z” of Viet Mind Tours. Highly recommended.