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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dec 1-2: Hanoi, Part 2

After a spending ten days traveling around with me, Michael flew back to the US, so I was left to my own devices. I decided to take a walk to the Temple of Literature. For 10,000 dong (about 50 cents) I was able to tour the grounds that were once a Confusius-minded think tank. Most of what was there has been rebuilt in the last 50 years (you might have heard that Vietnam has been through a few wars recently), but that didn't detract from the beauty of the place. The compound was made up of several traditional Chinese style structures amid still ponds, lotus flowers blooming over curious coy fish. Despite the many visitors milling around, the atmosphere was serene.

I also visited the tomb of Uncle Ho himself. It was a very serious affair. I waited with scores of other visitors as security guards scanned our bags, removing cameras & cell phones before we entered the mausoleum. We were then filed straight to the door, which was flanked by two soldiers carrying bayonettes. I had visions of being skewered as I walked up the red carpet, but thankfully made it inside without incident. More soldiers inside the tomb kept the line moving slowly but steadily past the body, which was displayed in a glass case with lighting reminiscent of Madame Tussauds, surrounded on four points with more bayonette-wielding guards. I had all of thirty seconds to decide if this was the real Ho Chi Minh. The jury is still out.

In the afternoon I walked to the train station where I bought an overnight ticket to Sapa, my next stop.

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