The Way of the Gecko
Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 4 of 5 › view all entries
March 19th, 2007 – by: Glock3am
So after our 2 days in Hanoi doing our own thing and staying at that most excellent of hostels, we've begun the portion of our trip under the guidance of Gecko's tour company.
Somehow we managed to find the hotel to meet at the previous day, despite nursing some crazy hangovers due to the St. Patrick's Day festivities. I tell you, our carefully honed hawker denial skills came crashing down in a heap Sunday morning on the walk there. Being hungover and unable to match the pace of the locals we found ourselves literally surrounded by vendors selling their wares on a busy street corner.
We escaped with an inspired purchase of a pineapple, akin to throwing a scrap of meat to a pack of snarling dogs.
Other offers we rejected were for bootleg books and some other, shall we say, "homegrown" produce.
This first day of the Gecko's tour was spent seeing some of the major sights in Hanoi.
First up was the Hoa Lo Prison aka the Hanoi Hilton, used by the French for Communist prisoners and later on used by the Vietnamese for US P.O.W.'s. A fairly eye opening place and our first glimpse of the military history of Vietnam.
Next up was, the Temple of Literature (again!), Vietnam's
first university, where pupils tooks their final exams in front of the Emperor himself!
Not that there wasn't enough pressure already!
Some great Chinese architecture cane be seen here and a whole extra area out the back that we somehow missed on our previous visit meant it wasn't such a waste of time going again after all!
We also got to check out Ho Chi Minh's tomb and house, but couldn't actually see the man in person, unfortunately it's closed on Mondays.
So it pays to get there early people! Or maybe avoid Sundays because it must be a traditional day to go and pay your respects I reckon.
On the tour bus we encountered our first proper Vietnamese traffic jam (just wait until Saigon!), it's just amazing how gridlocked it can get yet still everyone's inching their way through and you get there eventually.
We had some free time for a bit so we grabbed some supplies for the train ride to Hue that night.
By supplies, I mean mixers for the bottles of duty-free scotch and vodka acquired at KLIA...
Then it was off to the station for a sleeper train to Vietnam's imperial capital. The crazy thing I found with the tracks as they pass through the urban areas is how close the houses are to them! Often the inhabitants backyard is the train tracks, wish I'm sure can cause some problems...
The tour group had an entire carriage to themselves so we had a small party with dinner and drinks and a good chance to get to know the people we were travelling with!
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