With another overnight train, we were back in Hanoi.  This time around, we would have a little more time to explore before flying to Laos.  We did a walking tour of this city and found it less crowded than HCMC, but just as bustling.  We stayed in the old French Quarter portion of town which was centrally located to many of the famed sights that the city had to offer.  First on our list was the Hoan Kiem Lake.  According to legend, an ancient emperor was given golden sword from the turtle god to defeat the Ming Dynasty.  Once the Chinese recognized Vietnam's independence, the emperor returned to this lake and gave the sword back.  Now turtles still live in this lake and are honored and respected.
Embalmed Turtle
Next, we visited the Hỏa Lò Prison a.k.a. the Hanoi Hilton.  The Hanoi Hilton was a prisoner of war compound/jail whose roots go back before the Vietnam War.  Originally, it was a French designed jail used to house political prisoners.  The French were happy to occupy Vietnam French Indochina, but weren't fond of locals gaining an education or independence from their rule.  Later, after the Vietnamese gained independence from France, the prison was used to house American prisoners of war in Northern Vietnam.  The prison is now a museum of hope and peace and has been designed to showcase the hospitality the prisoners received.  Based on these displays and pictures, you would think that this was a enjoyable place to be a prisoner.... oh propaganda!  Again, without staying on the soap box too long, I'll just say that war is ugly and it turns people on both sides into animals while ultimately allowing me the freedom write things like this without fearing for my life.
Anna outside of the Prison

It's almost guaranteed that wherever you go in Vietnam you are bound to find pictures or tributes to Ho Chi Minh.  "Uncle Ho" is considered a national hero and leader of the freedom and independence movement.  To better understand this icon, we visited his museum and mausoleum in Hanoi.  The museum housed many statues and artifacts that documented his upbringing and day to day life throughout Vietnam's history.  Due to bad timing and lacking the appropriate attire (pants) we were not able to see his embalmed body in the mausoleum.  The communist-style architecture of the buildings was still very interesting to see up close.
Me with Uncle Ho. I can't lie, I was trying to strike as cool of a pose as the other guy in the shot. He wins.
The Mausoleum
Wanting to get a bit outside of the city, we did a day trip out to the Perfume Pagoda.  Nestled in the mountains an hour outside of Hanoi is this buddhist temple in the limestone caves.  In order to reach the temple you need to take a row boat ride for about 30 minutes and then a cable car to the top of the mountain.  There was a huge storm that came after the boating segment and temporarily shut down the cable car.  The rain subsided and we finally made it to the top, which was totally worth it.
Trying to beat the humidity
I think it was a 2007 vintage.  Good year for snake whiskey.
Fisherman's Commute

Gondola to the Top
Zac or Raiden from Big Trouble in Little China
Cave Temple Offerings

Temple Bell


  1. hey that's my hat!!! whoa!!! that's my cousin!!! and btw...for us vietnamese in the states we uh hmmm.... call it saigon. thank you very much.

  2. Did you try the whiskey? Supposed to be good for fertility! Zac, you make a great Raiden. The temple looks amazing.