Monday, June 23, 2014

Hanoi Explorations... Part 3

I found traveling around Hanoi to be relatively easy. There are a number of transport options such as buses, taxis, moto taxis and simply walking. Many of the tourist attractions are located in the central area called the Old Quarter. I was staying just west of the Old Quarter so I decided to take a bus to travel to the center. 
It was easy enough to use Google maps to find my route and the nearest bus stop. Once I boarded the bus there was a ticket assistant that collected my fare which was 7000 dong.
Then to find my bus stop I tracked my movements with either google maps or a gps mapping app that I have called pocket earth. The #14 bus took me to the Hoan Kiem Lake stop and near the Old Quarter.
Today was Sunday, so I decided to check out the St. Joseph's  Cathedral and the mass. The cathedral is a noted landmark in the city, but also a very active parish.
I walked in and sat down on the right side. It did not take me long before I noticed that all of the people sitting around me happened to be women. It appears that in Vietnam or at least in this cathedral all the women sit on the right and all the men sit on the left. I felt a little self conscious being the only man on the right side, but I could not easily change sides because the service was already in progress. I stuck it out and rationalized that God probably did not care on which side I was sitting, He would probably just be glad that I came to worship. Even though I sat on the wrong side and I didn't understand a word, it ended up being a nice worship service. 
The next thing I wanted to check out was  a landmark on the grounds where this modern hotel now exist. 
On a piece of the grounds stands part of the old Hao Lo Prison. Part of the prison still exists as a museum and memorial. The Hao Lo prison is better known by Americans as the Hanoi Hilton. 
During the Vietnam/American War this prison housed some well known American prisoners. What I learned was that during the French Occupation of Vietnam the prison was used to house Vietnamese prisoners who were thought to be dangerous to the French rule.
Cell block
Solitary confinement cell
View inside the cell from the outside
Senator John McCain's flight suit and gear. He was one of many American pilots that were shot down and held at the prison.
During the French Occupation, this guillotine was actually used to behead Vietnamese prisoners.
This is part of the sewer system through which some Vietnamese prisoners escaped the prison. 
I can only guess that whether you were a Vietnamese or American prisoner in Hao Lo prison that it was a horrific experience. I must admit, that after spending some time at the prison I felt a little depressed.
After visiting the prison I decided that I needed a little enlightenment. So headed to the Museum of Literature, which really seemed to be a museum for Confucius.
There were these large carved tablets on top of turtles with teachings from Confucius.
There were shrines for Confucius
People were making offerings
These custard filed pastries seemed to be a favorite offering.
On this blank wall people were using their finger to write imaginary words. I'm guessing that they were writing their hopes, dreams or prayers.
On the grounds there was this pagoda.
And this large bell. Maybe I'm just a little dense, but I did not feel more enlightened after my visit... I just felt more like a tourist since there were do many tour groups at the museum.
After a while I decided it was time to leave the Museum of Literature, so I walked outside. Right across the street was a lake.
I gravitated toward this gentleman that was fishing with a cane pole. I watched for a while to see if he was catching anything. It seemed like it was a slow day, no luck.
There was one last site I wanted to visit in Hanoi... the museum and mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh.
Ho Chi Minh is highly regarded as the inspiration and father behind the communist movement in Vietnam. His image can be found on buildings, as statues and in murals all around the country.
The Ho Chi Minh museum seemed to be both a museum about the man...
And a museum of modern art
On the same grounds but in a different area was the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum.
I passed on the outside, but did not enter the mausoleum because it was closed on Sundays. I've heard that pictures are not permitted inside anyways, so I wouldn't be able to share any photos. What I've heard is that on inside is the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh and visitors are allowed to pass by and pay respects.

That pretty much summed up my explorations in Hanoi. The next day I would set sail for Halong Bay. 

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