So our terribly uncomfortable flight arrived about 10pm. (VietJet airlines provides about 3 inches of legroom) Noi Bai Airport is about a 45 minute taxi ride into Hanoi. So we booked a cheap hotel close to the airport to bed down for the night. $18 per night gets you kind of a sketchy unit, but we were tired, and I have slept in worst places.
Next morning we hailed a taxi into Hanoi. While waiting for the taxi, Aya quickly booked a Hotel online, we hopped in the Taxi and headed for the Hotel.
The Hotel we booked, The Skyline Hotel was about $38 per night and 4 Star Luxury. We arrive at the Hotel and were ushered into “The Welcome Center” for a welcome drink. Then comes in the Hotel Manager to tell us that the Hotel is overbooked, and he cannot provide a room for us. We are both waiting for the “you will need to pay more” conversation. But instead this one man turned out to be amazing, planning everything for us. He assures us we can stay at a “better” hotel 1 block away owned by the same person. He also offers us a rock bottom price on a Halong Bay boat tour, passing up on his commission as an apology for overbooking. He furthermore offers us $30 per night when we return to Hanoi from Halong Bay. And arranges airport transportation for us back to the Airport, with packed breakfast as we leave at 5am- for $10. The hospitality we saw in Vietnam was amazing. We eventually stayed at the May De Ville Hotel if anyone is looking.
So after checking in, dropping our bags, we headed out in search of lunch.
Ok, between this Lunch above, and Dinner below, we did actually walk around and explore, we just did not find any photos worthy of sharing. The photos that are selected to be shared on the blog are a very small fraction of all photos taken. And to travel light, we left our beloved Canon T5i DSLR at home, so night shots are a challenge on our lightweight point and shoot camera.
Dinner time is Pho time
We stumbled back to our hotel, thru the craziest traffic we have every experienced, anywhere in our travels- more on that later.
A visit to the Hanoi Hilton
The next morning it was off to the famous Hoa Lo Prison, also know as the Hanoi Hilton. We all know about the Vietnam War, Hanoi (in the north of Vietnam) was the headquarters of the North Vietnam Army, Viet Cong, and War Hero Ho Chi Minh. This was not a place you would want to find yourself in the 1960’s if you were not North Vietnamese. Most American Pilots (Prisoner’s of War) shot down were sent to Hoa Lo Prison, it was not a nice place.
I will try and give you an accurate portrayal of life at Hoa Lo, most of the information posted in the prison is Propaganda of the Vietnam Government. For those of you who are unaware, Vietnam is still a Communist Country.
Hoa Lo was built by the French in 1896 to hold thousands of Vietnamese patriotic and revolutionary fighters. Since Vietnam liberated itself from the French in 1954, Vietnam used the prison to house common criminals. From August 5th 1964 to March 29th 1973, a portion of the prison was used to house captured American Pilots. In 1993 most of the prison was demolished, but the gatehouse and one wall of the prison was saved, and now operates as a Museum.
“Maison Centrale” (Central House, a traditional euphemism to denote prisons in France)
If you want to escape by climbing over these walls, you need to make it over the concrete top piece with pieces of broken glass stuck into it, ohhh and the electrified wires. As an American Pilot, even if you escaped, where would you go, You are in the heart of Hanoi.
The Propaganda machine is very careful to spell out the atrocities suffered at the hands of the French when they controlled this prison. Somehow when the North Vietnamese were in control of the prison, it was all smiles and 5 star treatment. The reality is this place was hell on earth.
The next item caught me totally by surprise, a real French Guillotine. This was eerily interesting to look at.
The Vietnamese are so careful to point out how brutal the French were they actually included photos of three beheaded North Vietnamese in the tour pamphlet. (you may be able to see them on the wall on the right as well)
Now we come into the part used to house American Pilots. Here it is all smiles, butterflies and roses, and lies. It may be hard to read, but this is how the Vietnamese say they treated the Americans.
This appears to be a country club, not a prison. POW’s who were jailed here describe a much different atmosphere.
Vietnam Army Museum:
(from Wikepedia) Ho Chi Minh: “was a Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader who was prime minister(1945–55) and president (1945–69) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). He was a key figure in the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945, as well as the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the Viet Cong (NLF or VC) during the Vietnam War.”
After this we were plenty hungry and grabbed some chow nearby
An amazing experience on a dilapidated 116 year old Bridge:
Who thought walking over the 2.4 Km long Long Bien Bridge would be so much fun. This Bridge has seen it all, and by some sort of miracle is still standing. Designed by Mr. Eiffel (Eiffel Tower) the bridge was constructed in 1899-1902. 116 years of weather and corrosion have not been kind to this bridge. The U.S Air Force was also not kind, during the Vietnam War this bridge was heavily bombed. Some of the sections had to be replaced, but much of the original structure remains.
Walking on this bridge is treacherous, with thousands of scooters whizzing by, broken railing, sharp edges, uneven pavement underfoot. (I would not have been surprised if we broke thru) We also took a calculated risk, like many others, by jumping the interior railing, over a large gap onto the railway tracks. A misstep here would land you in the Red River.
The photo above shows a replaced section, notice how it is different than the rest. Most likely the casualty of American bombs. During the Vietnam War this was the only bridge over the Red River.
Off to Halong Bay tomorrow, more on Hanoi when we return.