Two more days in Vietnam and we’re now experts at crossing the street here. I realize I forgot to mention that in my last post, so I’ll quickly describe it: terrifying. There aren’t crosswalks, at least not any that are recognized, so you have to just step out into traffic and trust the scooters and taxis to weave around you. Remember the grandma who walked through traffic blindly in the beginning of Mulan ? That’s basically what you do.
We’ve managed to get used to crossing the street, had various Vietnamese foods (the pho is seriously amazing), and done plenty of exploration around Hanoi. We checked out the National History Museum, which was pretty standard as museums go and talked about the history of Vietnam (unfortunately it was largely in Vietnamese, and we didn’t take a lot away from it). We also went to a temple out on the lake in the city, which wasn’t that interesting on it’s own, but it was very interesting to see the pickpockets at work. They actually stand out quite a bit, they’re the only non-tourists in the area and look very suspicious as they patrol the bridge out to the temple. We had a couple follow us as we paced back and forth across the bridge, but with inside pockets on our jackets, we’re not the best of targets for pickpockets.
Today, we went off to the Ho Chi Minh museum and mausoleum, and to the temple of literature. The temple of literature is the ancient university, apparently founded in 1047 or something like that. However, most of it was apparently bombed in the 60s, so it’s all pretty recent construction in old architectural style. It was still cool to see, and we spent about an hour there before making our way up to the museum. Things around Hanoi close from 12-2, so we had to wait to see the museum, and we spent the time by walking around and seeing the exterior of the mausoleum and another unidentified government building. People aren’t allowed near the mausoleum itself, but the exterior fits in perfectly with the other buildings nearby (the museum and the unidentified government building). They look exactly you’d imagine the ministries of Peace, Love, and Truth from 1984 to look. With the exception that nothing in Hanoi appears to be above 10 stories.
Inside the museum, we again were presented with an exhibit which was both largely Vietnamese and largely propaganda. There actually was almost nothing inside the museum which told a story or reported on historical events, just lots of quotes from party leaders saying things like “It’s clear that Leninism is the purest and best economical and political ideology,” and a large statue of Ho Chi Minh.
We’ve started to examine buildings and infrastructure more in the past two days, and we’ve noticed that very little of the city appears newly constructed. The 1984 ministries were large marble buildings, but everything else looks like it was left behind by the French in that it is old, colonial style architecture.