10.12.2008 27 °C
We went to visit Uncle Ho this morning, (Ho Chi Minh to you), and the old guy looked as though he was still smiling over his defeat of the mighty U.S. in 1973. But, as he rests in his marble mausoleum, he has no idea that a war is still going on all around him.
The battle of Hanoi is ceaseless and for the past 3 days and nights we have been on the front lines. Pineapple sellers, postcard pushers and copy-book peddlars constantly hurl their wares at us; shoeshine boys, rickshaw drivers and restaurant touts accost us at every turn. The moment we leave the tranquility of our hotel bunker the relentless attacks begin. And then there is the traffic: The light infantry - batallions of mopeds, pushbikes, cyclo's and motorbikes - swarm the streets and sidewalks, while regiments of taxi and rickshaw drivers assault us with horns, bells and whistles. The heavy artillary of buses, vans and trucks, forge fearlessly through the fray, like Sherman Tanks, giving way to no one
It is a frenzied cacaphonous battle on the roads and there is no escape - no one even slows at a pedestrian crossing and traffic lights appear optional. But, if you can brave the smoke-filled air, the cratered sidewalks and the shrapnel strewn streets, and avoid everything that the arsenal of traffic throws at you, you will be rewarded with cafe's and restaurants catering to every taste; the splendid architecture like the Opera House, Historical Museum and Uncle Ho's Mansion (formerly the French Governor's pied a' terre until the locals kicked him out); the giant trees that line the boulevards and encircle Lake Hoan Kiem in the city centre; Lake Hoan Kiem itself; and numerous parks, gardens and pagodas. (Though it's difficult to escape the noise of nearby street battles). We loved the performance at the famous Water Puppet Theatre. And were greatly impressed by the helpful and friendly hotel and travel office staff who seemed oblivious to the war going on around them.
We are now off to to sail a Junk around the tranquil islands of Halong Bay for some well-deserved R & R.