Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003 – Day 287

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003 – Day 287

I was awoken at 7.00am by some construction work next store. No wonder the place is so cheap. I meant to get up early any way. I walked 20 minutes to a bank to get a cash advance. I needed some USD for my Chinese trip. It takes time, paper work etc. You need a passport. it took nealy 25 mnutes and I signed a half dozen forms. I also had to pay 3% commission. Bastards. You also pay 20,000 Dog commission when using an ATM to withdraw Dong. Anyway when he was giving me the cah, I think he tried to pull a fast one. He gave me the USD and waved me away with thanks. I stayed and counted the cash. There was only 40% of what I had withsrawn. He was ALL apologies for trying to keep 60%. I dont know if it was a mistake or atempted theft.

I took a moto taxi to the Chinese Embassy. I am always afraid of embassy and border officials. Anyway it was straight forward. I wanted a 3 month double entry Visa as I would be leaving China in early January but re-entering in late January via Hong Kong. I flled out one form and I had a passport photo. It was 45 USD. The hotel wanted me to give it to them to do, but they were charging 52 USD. I saved 7 USD there. Anyway it would be ready to collect friday, the 5th. It a day longer than I expected but I have time. I could have gotten it tomorrow if I paid a 20 USD express fee.

It was only 9.15am so i walked to the now opened Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. I had to walk ito the complex in a round about way, but the ques were moving fast. Its free in but they expect foreigners to buy a leaflet for 4000 Dong. Its optional. I had to give my bag into a counter and off we went. We went through metal detectors and anybody though to have a concealed camera was searched. A guy in front of me was searched three times as he a bulge (his book) in his pocket.

It was weird as we went in. It was like a funeral parlour. There was a big open casket coffin with glass over it. There he was inside looking exactly like his pictures. There were four guards stationed around him and a big hammer and sickle and the red star of Vietnam on the wall behind. There wasnt a sound. There were lots of old army guys visiting. It was good.

Next I visited:

Ho Chi Minh’s Museum

English-language explanations help to piece together the fragments of Ho’s life and cause here, and there are personal items, photos, and documents detailing the rise of the nation’s communist revolution. The rhetoric is laid on a bit thick, but all in all it’s an interesting and informative display. Completely unique to Vietnam are the conceptual displays symbolizing freedom, reunification, and social progress through flowers, fruit, and mirrors. Have a look.

and:

Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)

For sheer gruesome atmosphere alone, this ranks near the top of the must-see list. It was constructed by the French in 1896 mainly to house political prisoners, and the Vietnamese took it over in 1954. It was subsequently used to house prisoners of war. From 1964 to 1973, it was a major POW detention facility. U.S. senator John McCain was a particularly famous inmate, as was Pete Peterson, the ambassador to Vietnam, and Lieut. Everett Alvarez, officially the first American pilot to be shot down over Vietnam. Their stories are told from the Vietnamese perspective in photographs and writings grouped in one small room. To the west is the guillotine room, still with its original equipment, and the female and Vietnamese political prisoners’ quarters. The courtyard linking the two has parts of original tunnels once used by a hundred intrepid Vietnamese revolutionaries to escape in 1945. Only part of the original complex is left; the rest of the original site was razed and is ironically occupied by a tall, gleaming office complex popular with foreign investors. There are basic English explanations, but this is a good spot to have a guide who is certain to be armed with a tale or two.

It was only 5,000 Dong in and it was excellent. Alot dealt with the time, the prison was used by the French to house revolutionary Vietnamese. Still there were was a A vietnam war section and it had lots of pictures of Americans in the Jail including the first USA Ambassador to Vietnam (which happened only in 1997) , Pete Peterson. He spent six years there.

There was also pictures of John McCain, who went for president of the USA a few years ago. They even had the jumpsuit he was captured in on exhibit. He was in Jail here for five and a half years. They take POW seriously.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – Teddy Bears not having a Picnic. (02-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – The Hanoi Hilton. (02-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – The Hanoi Hilton. (02-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – The Hanoi Hilton. (02-12-2003)

One semi-scam I should mention that happens all over Vietnam are the coin collectors. You often get kids asking where are you from. If you say Europe, they ask how much is the Euro worth. you might say 15,000 Dong. They then produce 2-6 Euro in coins asking you to exchange telling you that you can use them when you get back. You cant argue with his. I often tell them I work in Singapore as there is too many of them. If you are not from Euope they may ask for a souvenior from your country. Often you get asked for coins from these budding coin colelctors. It seems innocent enought, and I have seen lots of people who would not normally give to beggars, give coins to these kids. They then sell them back to other people of the same nationality.

I called into a travel agent to took a tour to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc tomorrow for 11 USD. it leaves at 7.00am and should be back at 5.00pm. I see on the NET that landmines still cause headaches for Vietnamese. Many are maimed and killed each year.

I called into a restaurant and decided to have roast pigeon tonight. Something different. It was a bit stringy and had too much tendons/musles. I didnt like the fact they also roasted the head and had it in my olate as well. I made no attempt to eat it.