As stated in the last blog, we had just 6 days to travel length of a pretty long country. We started off in Hanoi, the country's capital. It was 13 degrees and neither J nor I were particularly well prepared for the 20 degree drop in temperature. However, the city is vibrant, manic, distinctly Asian yet having a very French feel about it. Another by-product of colonisation.
The Vietnamese have been colonised a lot. And they are very aware of it. They celebrated Chinese New Year with banners, fireworks and a five-day holiday. They had been colonised by the Chinese from 111 BC till the French took over in the 19th century. As a result, their streets resemble French boulevards and they do the best baguettes outside of Paris (not my quote but one courtesy of the inflight magazine. Though I'm happy to admit, they were very good). The French didn't leave till 1940 when the Japanese took over. This was short lived as the Japanese surrendered to the allies and then...
Their national museum, Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, the guided tour around the Cu Chi Tunnels all celebrate the fact that they avoided being colonised again- by the Americans.
Our stay in Hanoi was very lovely, very cold but also, sadly, very brief. We had to have a whistlestop tour of it's highlights by a lovely rickshaw driver who who had to pedal both me and J up and down hills in his little bicycle!
Next stop, Hoi An, a lovely little town on the coast which was also celebrating new year with gusto. After a few days there and a brief stop at the Royal city, we flew to Ho Chi Minh City which is still referred to as Saigon by Vietnamese people.
In Saigon, we visited the Cu Chi tunnels and the war museums. Our guide was a fantasist who, nevertheless, was extremely entertaining. We were given a rundown on the activities of the Viet Cong during the war, their tactics and their hiding place: the tunnels. Our guide Bean claimed to be a Vietnamese citizen born and bred who became a US soldier, leading a troop, and fought against the Viet Cong in the war. Somehow, I do not believe him...
Vietnam is busy yet laid back. The people are calmer and less materially orientated than their Thai neighbours. And although Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, I felt the smiles of the Vietnamese people were a little more genuine and a lot less rehearsed. I enjoyed everything about its multifaceted culture and its friendly people. I couldn't live there as I've got a little too used to how developed Thailand is. However, I would definitely visit Vietnam again, hopefully spending more than a week there next time.