Our journey began as we departed for Seoul en route to Hanoi, Vietnam. The fourteen hour flights was long but after three movies and a sleeping pill we arrived at our interim destination feeling relatively refreshed. After searching for our connecting flight we found that typhoon Kalmaegi proceeded us and was bearing down on Hanoi. Given the circumstances our flight was cancelled and we got to enjoy an unexpected overnight in Seoul. It worked out pretty well and gave a chance to get over our jetlag before catching a morning flight to Hanoi. After a 4AM wake-up call we regrouped and headed back out to the airport. Destination Hanoi!
The first part of our trip was part of an AMA Waterways Mekong cruise tour. Even with the flight cancellations we were met at the airport and transferred the luxurious Sofitel Metropole Hotel. Built in classic French colonial style this property features beautiful rooms and exceptional service. Located in the heart of the city’s French Quarter the Metropole is an oasis amidst the bustling and frenetic city. Hanoi is one of the oldest cities in SE Asia and it just recently celebrated its 1000 anniversary. Hanoi literally translate as “Ascending Dragon”.
Even though we arrived a day late, our guides made sure that we got to see most of the highlights of this beautiful city. After checking in we met our group for a motorcoach tour which included Ho Chi MInh’s mausoleum, the temple and Ho Lo Prison. Unfortunately the mausoleum was closed for maintenance so we could only view the exterior as we started to learn about Vietnam’s history. We then went to the Temple of Literature. Established in 1070 and founded to honor Confucius, the Temple of Literature is one of the oldest structures in Hanoi. It is made up of five courtyards and served as a center of higher learning for more than seven centuries. The tour ended a Ho Lo Prison. Ho Lo Prison was first used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners during the Vietnam war. Ho Lo Prison became know to Americans as the Hanoi Hilton.
The traffic in Hanoi is crazy and after taking a rickshaw ride through the city you may say that it is an understatement . The rickshaw ride was wild. Thousands of mopeds, cars and busses all speeding along in every direction at once with no lights or stop signs and amazingly no accidents. It takes a while to master the art of crossing the street as a pedestrian. The key is to walk slowly across the street without stopping or going backward. Amazingly the traffic simply goes around you. The final part of the tour was to see a traditional water puppet show which tells the story of ancient Vietnamese folklore through vibrant, animated puppets and traditional music.
Our long and exciting day was followed by dinner at a restaurant called Cao Go where we enjoyed a traditional Vietnamese meal overlooking the Hoan Kiem Lake before falling into our oh so comfortable beds back at the Metropole.