Hanoi was a bit underwhelming, to be honest. It’s the capital of Vietnam, its second-biggest city, and it was the last city I’d visit before heading to Laos.
As I headed north in Vietnam, the people seemed to get less patient, more frenetic, more confrontational, and less respectful. And being in traffic was just horrible with noise pollution coming from every direction.
The people I met in Ho Chi Minh City warned me of this, that by the time I got to Hanoi the people wouldn’t be very nice anymore. I had a hard time believing it. Well, now I’m a believer.
So I was kind of ready to check out and head to Laos, where I was told the people are friendly and always smiling like in Cambodia.
I only did two main touristy things in Hanoi, apart from seeing some of the lakes there – The Hanoi Hilton prison and the Temple of Literature.
The Hanoi Hilton
The Hanoi Hilton was a nickname coined by the American pilots who were held there during the Vietnam War. The pilots there had all been shot down over North Vietnam, John McCain included.
But actually, the prison was built in the late 1800s and the prison was mainly used by the French to detain the Vietnamese opposition during France’s rule in Vietnam.
The part about the American pilots being held there was a very small exhibit compared to their celebration of their jailed freedom fighters in the struggle for independence.
The Temple Of Literature
The Temple of Literature was Vietnam’s first university. Started in 1070 it served as the nation’s center of intelligence.
Now it is a temple with a beautifully landscaped garden and stone relics showcasing the retained knowledge from hundreds of years ago.
Otherwise, yes, there were a ton of museums I could have visited. Instead, I tried, unsuccessfully, to find beautiful cafes like I found in Ho Chi Minh City and I just relaxed. I couchsurfed with two really cool hosts and I spent a lot of time with them and their friends. One night, for example, I saw the movie The Lady. It tells the story of Aun San Suu Khi’s story in her struggle for a democratic and free Myanmar. Incredible person.
So that’s it. Vietnam has been an amazing experience and the next post wraps things up kind of nicely for Vietnam, in my opinion. Amazing country, amazing spirit, amazing people (more so in the south, for me), and amazing experience.
But now, off to Laos..