Location: Hanoi, Vietnam
Just to get everyone up to speed, I am currently in Hanoi visiting my college room mate, Hien, who is from here. Hanoi is very different from any place that I’ve visited. I love it! The streets are packed with people, cars, vespas, bicycles, buses, etc. As I was informed, the traffic is pretty intense. Actually, chaotic is a better word. Other than walking in to it to cross the street (which is terrifying), a good way to experience it first hand is on a Xich Lo. This is a bicycle with a seat attached to the front, that for a small price you can be wheeled around the city street. The city in general is pretty chaotic, but in a good way. Hanoi is so full of energy that it’s hard to know what to focus on. There are people everwhere coming and going, shops, restaurants and street vendors.
One thing I’ve found particularly fascinating are these tiny outdoor sidewalk… restaurants, for lack of a better word. People gather around tiny plastic tables and chairs and enjoy a meal or a drink. At one yesterday I enjoyed a dessert called thach dua, or “jelly in the coconut”. The name pretty much says it all, the clear jelly is eaten directly out of the coconut. It is a refreshing treat from the heat and humidity.
One place we visited yesterday was Hoa Lo Prison. It was built by the French in the late 1800s to house and torture Vietnamese political prisoners, both men and women. Even children of some of the women were kept in the prison. Music was playing softly in the background among the life-size (and in a way life-like) figures shackled to platforms in prison cells to represent the former prisoners, making the experience even more eerie. During the Vietnam war the prison was used to hold American POWs. According to the museum, the Americans encountered much more hospitable conditions than the former residents. However, a quick Google search shows the American perspective of this prison is completely opposite opposite, citing conditions on par with the horrible conditions endured decades before. Of course, the American perspective and the Vietnamese perspective of the Vietnam War are so different, it is sometimes difficult to tell which side has a more accurate description.
Well that’s all for now as I should go downstairs to eat some breakfast (and hopefully some delicious fruit-it’s amazing here!). Today Hien, Duy (her boyfriend) and I are headed to Hoi An. I’ll try to update later and hopefully I can post some pictures!