Ho Chi Minh City

The city was named Ho Chi Minh in 1976 after reunification to honour their leader but is still often called Saigon. Its big, busy, full of motor bikes and chaotic. Learning to cross the road here is an art. Basically you have to keep your nerve and just go for it. They are quite good at missing you. Continue reading

Another capital, Hanoi

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam. Its a French colonial city. The food is amazing and the city is full of handicraft shops with beautiful silk items. The cushions and handbags are an especially good buy (and easy to pack)!

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

You have to join a long queue to visit Ho Chi Minh and it must be taken seriously. No photographs and a serious expression are the rule. The guards make sure all the restrictions are obeyed. His embalmed body is in a glass case and dimly lit. You can’t take photos. Ho Chi Minh was Vietnam’s most popular leader and when he died in 1969 he was embalmed in secret using Russian experts. Every October he goes to Russia to be “renovated”.

Temple of Literature

This was built in 1070 as a university and dedicated to Confucius. At first only aristocrats were admitted. There are five courtyards, two are beautifully landscaped. One contains the huge Well of Heavenly Clarity. Then there’s the  Sage courtyard containing a house of ceremonies and a statue of Confucius. The last courtyard has a huge bell and a drum.

Before important exams students still visit to pray for good results. Then they go back for graduation photos.

The War Museum

The Hoa Lo Prison museum was originally built by the French for political prisoners. During the Vietnam war it was called the Hanoi Hilton by the captured US soldiers.

Dong Xuan Market

The old quarter is the best place to wander round and where the markets are. The Dong Xuan Market is a  four storey communist style building. It contains everything you could ever want to buy. Downstairs there is food, flowers and a pet market. Then upstairs T shirts, handbags, clothes, and anything else you can think of all at very cheap prices.

Or more fun, the streets outside.


The Tourist Side of North Korea

As tourists we  were taken to see working farms, schools and study centres. We bought sweets for the children in carefully orchestrated meetings. We saw children play in bands  and we were invited to dance with them. I have no idea what they thought of the foreigners who they treated like royalty but we did have a good time.

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