Hanoi is a great city. It is bustling, colorful and busy. Since it is the week before Tet, the city is even more lively than usual. The Vietnamese are busy running around and shopping. Mopeds carrying kumquat trees criss cross the streets. The weather is cold and gray, but the people warm up the city and make it a very pleasant place to be.
This is Monika’s last stop, so we had to do the obligatory shopping. Of course, having a Monika going home means we can send some of our own souvenirs with her. Somehow we convinced her to take a two foot tall wooden water puppet to Poland. Thank you!
There are a few tourist attractions in Hanoi and it did not take long to see them. Unfortunately, Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum closes at 11am. We got to the huge park complex where he rests at a quarter to and ran to the first building which looked big, gray and splendid, in that communist way. It was dedicated to Ho Chi Minh, but unfortunately it is only the museum which tells of his life. Uncle Ho sleeps in a different place. It was closed once we figured out where that was. The one pillar pagoda which is one of the top tourist attractions and also sits in the Ho Chi Minh gardens was very underwhelming. We’ve spent some time in the Literature Temple, which is the site of the oldest university in Vietnam, and then returned to the streets to shop and watch others shop.
One decidedly Vietnamese institution is the Bia Hoi. It is fresh beer which is delivered daily in barrels to the local restaurants and watering holes. The beer is not pasteurized, has a nice yeasty flavor, and is light on hops and alcohols. It goes down really easily, and if you find the right place, the cost per glass is about 12 cents. You can put these away by the dozen. In Hanoi, Bia Hai joints can be found on many corners of the city.