Hanoi is the capitol of Vietnam. It is located upriver from the sea, about 85 miles from Halong City. On the ride, we passed Vietnam’s largest port city of Haiphong. I immediately recalled hearing that name in the 1960-70s because of the relentless bombing. Supplies from China and USSR came into Haiphong and were then transported over a single bridge across the Red River to Hanoi. The journey then moved south down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. These were the primary bombing targets during the war. Today there are seven bridges that cross the river and take you into Hanoi.
In 2010 Hanoi celebrated a 1000th birthday. Except for a brief time, it has been the capitol. It was occupied by the Chinese, French, and Japanese. There remain strong French and Chinese influences For example, the two young ladies above were part of a local graduating class that celebrated at the Temple of Literature… A series of courtyards and temples built to honor Confucius. It also house Vietnam’s first University, established about 1000 years ago:
We then visited the Madison Centrale, the prison built by the French to hold political prisoners. The Vietnamese later detained American flyers, shot down over Hanoi, who called it the Hanoi Hilton.
I included part of the exhibit on Viet Minh prisoners, the letter sent to the troops by Uncle Ho, and the somewhat of an exaggeration about how our troops were treated. They did receive these perks when the Red Cross visited. I’ll also mention that our orisioners were probably treated better than the French’s treatment of the Viet.
Hanoi is now known as the City of Peace. The Bridge of Hope is one of their most cherished locations, and the Turtle Shrine, seen behind and to the left of us in the photo above, is considered irreplaceable to the people here. I had previously mentioned to our family back home that we we’re approached by two very nice boys who wanted to practice their English by conversing with us. It was one of our highlights of Hanoi.
Our final stop, other than shopping venues, was the Ho Chi Minh complex, for lack of a better word.
The working buildings of the government are just around the corner from the above photos. The people call him Uncle Ho, so I will as well for this write-up. At the end of the war, Uncle Ho could have lived in the beautiful French Palace (see photo above), but he hated it. Instead, he had his builders construct a replica of a stilt house he had seen in the countryside. They planned a two room house with a bathroom, but Uncle Ho refused the plan… Stilt houses did not have built-in bathrooms. He lived in this simple home until his death, about nine years later. Impressive !!!!
Uncle Ho wished to be cremated and have his ashes buried in each of the three sections of the country. The government, however, decided to put his body in the mausoleum above, so the people could pay their respects and report their progress of the nation. We were not there on a day when the mausoleum was open, so the exterior will have to do. This simple soldier is Vietnam’s George Washington. He led a nation to freedom and reunification.
One final note: There is a lot if talk in our country right now about the pros and/or cons of “Socialism.” Obviously, Vietnam’s present government is based on an extreme socialism…But they have found a way to balance it with a strong dash of good, old-fashioned capitalism. The result is a very healthy Tiger Economy and people who are extremely pleased with the direction and progress of their country
I will end this section with a video of the bustle of Hanoi’s old town streets…Two motorbikes for every household!!!