On the coast, Hoi An is a former trading post and a perfect tourist destination.
The flight from Hanoi to Hue takes less than an hour. This city has some of the most interesting places in the country and some very good hotels.
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.
A short flight takes you from Luang Prabang to the capital, Vientiane.
Buddha smiled and rested for a day in Luang Prabang. He prophesised it would become a rich and powerful city.
From the centre of Bangkok a cruise down the Chao Phraya river takes you to the old capital of Ayutthaya.
Thailand was the first step on our tour of Asia, Good flights and and easy place to start.
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.
One thing you have to do in North Korea is show your deference to the great leader.
I might not risk it now but at the time a summer holiday in North Korea seemed a good idea.