Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mystery Photo 4: Hanoi, Vietnam -- Exceeded all Expectations

Understatement: There are a lot of scooters in Vietnam.

      My expectations of Vietnam were probably somewhat low, though I had heard of other American tourists going there and enjoying the trip very much. There is a lot to see in this little country. The country is quite small in overall area, but it is also quite long. Therefore it is necessary for efficiency of travel to fly from one place to another. This post will primarily show Hanoi and Halong Bay. I have a lot of photos and there is a lot to show. Future posts will show more of central and southern Vietnam.

Above is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, the subject of Mystery Photo 4

Below are two pictures of the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square in Moscow. It is a red granite building much lower than the Hanoi building because it is backed up against the wall of the Kremlin. But the structure and style of the base is very much like that we see above in Hanoi.

     We flew from Chicago O'Hare with a short layover in Tokyo Airport, and then to Hanoi. The Mystery Photo 4 is of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square in the center of Hanoi, Vietnam, where Ho read the Declaration of Independence for Vietnam,on September 2, 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, then know as North Vietnam to us.  The flag of Vietnam is red with a  solid yellow star in the center. You see this flag hanging near the Mausoleum in the "hint" photo I provided. I wrote about visiting this Mausoleum in the December 12 posting. It was inaugurated August 29, 1975 and inspired by Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow which we have also seen, though we did not wait in the very long line to go into that place. Here in Hanoi, there was not a real long line for some reason, so we were able to go inside. Being laid out like Ho Chi Minh is inside was totally against his wishes. He left a will that stated his wish to be cremated and have his ashes scattered in the hills of the north, central and southern Vietnam. He said he preferred cremation which is "more hygienic than burial and would also save land for agricultural purposes." But he was afterall the father of Vietnam reunification so the mausoleum is there in spite of what he wished.
                                         Lenin's Tomb backed up against the wall of the Kremlin
     One of the interesting characteristics of Vietnamese architecture is the narrowness of the houses. That is because it costs a lot to buy land fronting streets and roads, so the frontage of the houses is very narrow. But often these houses are 3 to 5 stories high and they are often painted bright colors and have very interesting decorations and styles. I have added several photos of these buildings from around the Hanoi area. Sometimes the houses look very strange because some have been built virtually by themselves in the countryside or in the suburbs standing tall and narrow all by themselves with no windows on the sides. I have
not seen this characteristic building anywhere else in the world. Even their cemeteries show this style of architecture in very small scale as you can see in the last photo.

One skinny house of Vietnam, out in the country.
                                 What the skinny houses of Vietnam are supposed to look like when put side by side.

The skinny house architecture carried over to the cemetery.

                                                 Water puppets for sale at a sidewalk shop.

The instrumental band for the Water Puppet show.

The National Vietnamese Water Puppet Theatre and its colorful stage.

                                 The water puppets in action. They are maneuvered on long sticks that are under the water. The manipulators are located behind the stage, reaching forward with the sticks.It was a ancient and very unique way to tell local folk stories.

                                                                    The cyclo.

A famous bridge in Hanoi which leads to a famous Pagoda Temple. We had to get our photo taken on this bridge. Below are street scenes in the markets where Communist Vietnam practices their rampant capitalism.


                           Below two older men playing a board game in Ba Dinh Park, downtown Hanoi.

     Above is the entrance to what remains of the "Hanoi Hilton", the former French prison where dissidents were chained. Most of the large prison complex has been torn down and a high rise hotel tower has been built behind this remnant. Also the Vietnamese National Museum has been built on this property.  Below is a view from inside the Hanoi Hilton museum. Here are seen ceramic figures representing how the French imprisoned the dissident Vietnamese during their Colonial days. There is a section which is devoted to the time that American POWs were kept here, but as you can imagine there is some degree of propagandizing here: for example referring to the American devils, etc. I guess to them we were the Devils; obviously we were the enemy. But interestingly one whole room is devoted to John McCain, showing his history, telling how he landed in the middle of the well known lake in the middle of downtown Hanoi. They have his flight suit on display. They seem to be quite proud that a man who ran for President of the United States was housed in their prison for a bunch of years.
Below is the entrance to the Vietnam National Museum.

     Above is the Vietnamese National dress, the au dai for women. It consists of long flowing pants, with an overdress with a long panel in front and another long panel behind. The slim young Vietnamese women universally look gorgeous in these costumes. They are worn when the women dress up and for special occasions. And the women just mount their motor scooters with this beautiful dress.

     Below is a video of Halong Bay about 2 hours north of Hanoi. These limestone hills within the Bay are known worldwide. Take a look at this video panorama of this lovely site. Above that is a combination of these rock formations that is called "Kissing Chickens." You have to take your boat around to the proper angle to "see" the chickens. 

     I have lots more photos from Vietnam. I think I will have to post again just to get a few more out there. As I said, there was a lot to see in this energetic young country with an ancient past.

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