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July 9th, 2009

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam but despite this, and its historical and political importance, it has managed to remain fairly low key. It retains buildings from the 11th century, from the French Indochinese period as well as recent buildings pertaining to the ascent of Ho Chi Minh himself.

To begin with I have to say that I really liked Hanoi. For me, personally, it was nicer than Hoi An with a great mixture of the old and the new. Whatever you wanted you could probably find, although saying that we did manage to spend an awful lot of time trying to find speakers for my laptop. Regardless of that I managed to get in most of the city. Most of the active city revolves around Hoan Kiem Lake: the Old Quarter to the north and the French to the south.

We spent the majority of the first day checking out the city and trying to visit the Hanoi Hilton, the site of a French prison and later a prison for Americans. We did manage to get there but sadly a little too late; it was 3.50pm and they closed at 4pm. At that point I headed off on my own to find St Joseph’s Cathedral. I circled it for a while before getting myself in there. Quite a cute little Cathedral really and a nice spot to have a bit of quiet time. St Joseph's CathedralFollowing that I headed off to the east of Hoan Kiem Lake to take in some more of the French quarter and in particular the very elegant villas and tree lined streets which really do remind you of France. A beautiful part of the city and made all the more impressive by the great atmosphere with people playing badminton in the street and generally relaxing.

The second day (a Friday) was spent trying to go through all of the main tourist attractions west of the Citadel. Sadly, it’s all shut on a Friday so we walked around the area looking at a few things before heading off to the Temple of Literature. Not much to say on the Temple really;Temple of Literature it’s essentially the first University of Hanoi, dating from the 11th Century. More impressive was the little restaurant we happened upon just to the east of the Temple. Called Koto the restaurant teaches kids how to cook and gives them skills in the restaurant business. That’s all very good and well but the food has to deliver. Didn’t it just; great food and even better shakes ensured that we had a great lunch and didn’t even realise that a load of our group were upstairs from us! We eventually made it to the Prison from the day before and while the prison itself was nothing too impressive the behaviour of the Vietnamese was exemplary. Not only did the American prisoners (John McCain included) seem to have the time of their lives (there are pictures of them playing basketball and all sorts of stuff) they were also handed souvenirs when they left the prison!!

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
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