Hanoi Sightseeing

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.

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The front of the prison
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Image of what the prison looked like when in operation
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Door from the prison
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A depiction of how Vietnamese prisoners were kept by the French
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Detention cells
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Prisoners were kept shackled in these cells 24 hours a day. They ate and defecated in the same position.
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Death Row
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Memorial in the prison yard
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John McCain’s flight suit and parachute

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.

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Ho Chi Mihn Mausoleum
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Soldiers pose in front of the Mausoleum
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I have to include a selfie occasionally  🙂
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Mausoleum guards do a march by (changing of the guard?)
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Ho Chi Mihn Museum

Next to the Mausoleum is the One Pillar Pagoda that was built in 1049 by Emperor Ly Thai Tong.

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One Pillar Pagoda
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The shrine inside the pagoda

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.

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Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
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Bicycle loaded with fish traps

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Representation of the inside of a traditional house
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Carved wooden panel

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Shaman dress
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Junk racing boat

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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.

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B52 bomber wreckage from the Vietnam War

 

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!

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Ladies prepare our food at the first stop of the tour

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One of the walking tour stops

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Very nice vegetable dish – ‘water morning glory’ with garlic, dipped in a soy sauce
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Street vendor grilling local version of satay sticks

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Street vendor deep frying ‘banana cakes’ and ‘potato cakes’

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Banana Cake (deep fried fritter)
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Woman prepares food in the rear living section of a shop

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Assortment of dessert food
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With our tour guide at the end of the tour

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.

 

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