Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh and the Hanoi Hilton

Well that was a pretty eventful day. This blog entry may be semi-incoherent for reasons which may become obvious.

Go up this morning at about half 7 for breakfast (a reasonable time in Vietnam it seems), got chatting to the French woman (Sylvie) again, and a couple who ended up sitting at the same table as us. Turns out the bloke was Welsh (Welshperson counter = 1), from Llanelli, and his newlywed wife is American, They were on their honeymoon for want of a better word, though they were actually spending it slumming it around Asia for the most part.

Ended up arranging to meet Sylvie in the afternoon to visit the Hanoi Citadel (the ancient fortress of the city), and spending the morning until i checked out going to Hao Lo Prison (known as the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War, now ironically, there really is a Hilton here…), with the couple, Jeff and Jessica.

Regulation plaque at the entrance to the Museum. Please note article 3.

Some of the prison outfits and other paraphernalia in the museum, with Jeff and Jessica having a gander. 95% of it was about the treatment of Vietnamese political prisoners during the French Indochina period, and 5% about  the American pilots (who apparently had a fantastic time playing volleyball and chilling). Understandable bias, but still.

One of the cells. Despite the conditions, which were appalling, this did afford prisoners the opportunity to spend all night discussing communism, which all things considered, probably wasn’t a good plan on the part of the French.

Death Row cell block, obviously grim, and Guillotine used for executing them. They also had a load of items supposedly used by the French to torture prisoners. Some needed no explanation, like boxing gloves. Some you probably don’t want to know the explanation, like an electric charge generator with wires, and a glass beer bottle. And some just, frankly, needed one. Like a blanket, and an empty oil drum. With the blanket, i couldn’t help but think “Bring in, the SOFT CUSHIONS…”

Totally unflattering picture of me outside the prison, but the photographer isn’t to blame, so thanks for that Jeff.

After that, i checked out of my hotel, and carting everything i own, headed for the hostel. Cant have been more than about 500m, but in that heat, and with trousers and boots on it damn near killed me.

View of the street where the hostel is, a proper Hanoi old quarter street.

And a view out the window of my dorm scross all the rooftops.

(Entry continued in the morning, hungover but at least now semi-sober) After dropping off my stuff, i got chatting to a load of people at the entrance to the hostel. It really is an excellent place to meet other people, everyone seems friendly and chatty. After having a quick bite to eat, i met up with Sylvie. The citadel was quite a long way in the heat, but i’ve already learned theres absolutely no point rushing in this place, you stroll. I still spend all my time sweating profusely. I get the impression you acclimatise after a while, by which i mean your body just stops bothering to sweat since it clearly achieves nothing useful.

We went past the Flag Tower of Hanoi…

And Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, where he lies embalmed in a refrigerated room, specifically against his wishes. Next door is the presidential palace, where he lived, though he actually hated the pomp, so his real house was a simple wooden house in the grounds of the palace. But we couldnt actually get to see any of these things, or the citadel itself, because in Vietnam, everything closes on a Monday.

So we ended up going in to the botanical gardens instead, pretty much because it was the only thing that was open.

Sylvie showing off the dragons near the entrance to the park. They were all made out of ceramics, and i think the scales were actually made from dinner plates…

A view over one of the many lakes in the gardens. You can see how muggy the day was, so probably not the best time for photo’s really. Sylvie was taking pics all the time for her blog with her swanky nikon SLR, and it wasnt until we got here and she tried to see if the pic came out ok that she realised she’d left the memory card in her laptop back in her hotel room…

On the way back we passed one of the old gates to the citadel. You cant see it very well in the photo, but it has two massive chunks out of it (one near the top, and one just to the right of the brass plaque at the bottom), from where the french bombarded it in the 1890’s.

After i got back to the hostel, i went up to the rooftop bar (barbeque food and cheap beer every night), and got pissed with the other travellers, swapping tales of the madness of Hanoi and S E Asia generally.  No pics of that though, after a few i probably couldnt have held a camera straight anyway. That was a pretty good day.

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~ by zendog888 on 26/10/2010.

5 Responses to “Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh and the Hanoi Hilton”

  1. Tidy darts brothership. Everything looks amazing. Im just off to take in the sights and sounds of Wigan. I don’t think ill bother taking a camera mind, although they do have a pier and its miles from the sea.

  2. Hi son laughed out loud, loving your blog, more pictures please. My phone and email are buggered so using Jane’s.
    Take care dad and Jane
    p.s. what happened to Ha?

  3. “Sylvie was taking pics all the time for her blog with her swanky nikon SLR, and it wasnt until we got here and she tried to see if the pic came out ok that she realised she’d left the memory card in her laptop back in her hotel room…” This is not good to laugh at me! well I forgive you because we have a good laugh at my stupidity, good travel to you and thank you for your patience in trying to understand my English!! Sylvie’s French

  4. Hehe, thank you Sylvie for being such a gracious guide to me around the city, and good luck to you travelling back to france. It was really good fun. I’ll make sure i mention you to any Buddha’s i see along the way! Your english was much better than my french! Hywel

  5. Heya dude. Thanks for the bidet greetings. I’m glad to hear you’re safe and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells on offer. I can’t believe that no frolicking is allowed at the Hoa lo prison, it’s a damn outrage and I jolly well hope you give them a piece of your British mind. I mean, where would Colonel Kurtz have been if he hadn’t made time for his joyful frolics after a hard days reading of T.S. Elliot and beheading of oxen?

    Take good care of yourself

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