Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hanoi, Day 2

A good stretch of the day was spent walking around and fitting our schedule around Uncle Ho's opening hours. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was closed because he was off somewhere touching up his taxidermy but we did get in an afternoon visit at the Ho Chi Minh Museum, which basically traces his life's accomplishments. The museum was a bit disorienting at times with the displays that were featured. The first thing I wandered into was essentially a hall of mirrors with a few pieces of art and stock images to set the era in context. I started off with a lost feeling.

The content at the museum was all a bit overwhelming and I found myself making a false start after realizing that he was not born Ho Chi Minh. I was curious about all that he had done, but found the setting, with all of its surfaces of aluminum, plexiglas and the like dated before the construction was even completed. The architect responsible for the building better have a very thin portfolio. There was a sense that the place needed to be redone, but maybe there is something about communism, dictatorships or personality cults that invites that kind of interior.

The was one of the first really where we had a chance to slow down to a contemplative pace. We visited a few temples (to kill time during the lunch break at the Ho museums) and found ourselves wandering and abandoning any track of time. At the Temple of Literature, the ground were quite substantial and we had no problem whiling away our time taking pictures of the lilies in the ponds. It being Sunday, the temple was crowded with locals who were out to take pictures. There appeared to be a few wedding parties out to take pictures and there were clutches of young women, their ao dai dresses the colour of Easter candy wandering around taking pictures of one another.

We managed to avoid the cyclo drivers today and had a bit more tolerance for the noise and energy of the streets. Tomorrow we will head to Halong Bay for a 2 day 1 night tour and cruise. Add in Angkor Wat from Wednesday through the weekend and it seems like we are ending the trip with the big highlights.