Once my contract in South Korea was finished, I hopped on a plane for Hanoi, Vietnam. As I was in the cab going to my airbnb, I was in awe of the amount of green I saw. Coming from Korea, I was used to seeing buildings and concrete with views of nature in the far distance. Everywhere I looked on my 20 minute drive in Hanoi was green. I think it took me about .5 seconds to love this place, and the fact that the cab driver had a pineapple in the cupholder didn’t hurt either.
After I arrived at the apartment, I went for a ride around the Old Quarter. There is so much energy, excitement, and passion for life here that I was missing in Korea.
One of the more difficult things to accomplish in Hanoi is crossing the street. I know this should be fairly simple since in most places, you wait at the crosswalk and when the green man says “go,” you go. Yeah, that’s not how things work here. At soon as you see a small opening, you start your adventure(key word being adventure) across the street and wait in the middle of the street while motor bikes and cars go around you. Once it’s clear, you continue across the street and repeat this process until you safely make it across. This terrifies some people, but I find it very exciting. It’s basically a real life version of Frogger!
I wish I could have explored the city more, but I still have to teach online so that takes up almost all of my afternoons and nights. However, I have spent a few days wondering around the city. It’s nice to be walking down the street and just come across random temples and scenery.
In the Old Quarter, there are so many unexpected sights. I literally was walking down a street and attempting to cross an intersection, when I looked to my right and saw this beautiful cathedral 1 block away.
There is also a lake at the southern edge of the city center. Since I was there late afternoon, the lake was busy with tourists, local vendors, and joggers.
Along my walk, I will usually stop into a coffee shop and order either an egg coffee or vietnamese black coffee. This coffee here is incredible! I know egg coffee sounds disgusting, but it’s actually very good. Vietnamese food is by far one of the best types of cuisine I’ve had especially on this side of the world!
I’m lucky that I live near a huge lake that is 17km around. Of course, I haven’t run around the entire lake but I have enjoyed taking morning runs along the lakefront.
The other day, I took about a 2o minute walk to a more historic part of town. Apparently, Vietnam is very protective over certain monuments and you can’t get within 50m of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. For those that don’t know, Ho Chi Minh was a communist revolutionary leader. He helped lead the Vietnamese revolution against the French, which they eventually won. Later, he became Prime Minister and President of Democratic Republic of Vietnam or North Vietnam.
Right next to the mausoleum is the Presidential Palace. You also can’t get very close to this and I arrived just after the gates closed. Unfortunately, this was the best picture I could get.
One of the big touristy places in Hanoi, is the “Hanoi Hilton” or the prison. During my tour, I learned that the prison was originally a village that the French turned into a prison. During the revolution, many Vietnamese people were placed here. I walked into one of the cells that the prisoners were held in, which wasn’t that big(based off my calculations, maybe 20 walking lunges). This cell was originally used to hold 30-40 people, but at times there were so many prisoners that it held 100 people! During the humid summers, the elderly and kids got to be placed near the doors just so they could breathe. Then in the cold winters, the prisoners would spoon just to stay warm. I’m not sure they even had enough space to lay any other way.
Even though this is a museum now, I was still completely creeped out. The black walls are definitely a type of torture by themselves. There was one room showing the American Pilots being held at the prison. I’m not sure how accurate, or perhaps biased, this information was because all they showed was the prisoners having fun. I don’t know a lot about war, but I’m pretty sure POWs aren’t treated like best friends. This is definitely something I would like to learn more about.
Last week, I had a few days off and took a cruise to Halong Bay and a weekend trip to Hoi An, so I will talk about those trips later!