Wednesday 23 June: At 5:30am we arrive in Vietnam's capital city and go our separate ways. I'm staying in Hanoi Backpackers' Hostel near St Joseph's Cathedral in the city's old quarter. Hanoi's a pleasant city with a French feel about it, set around a breezy lake. I've been humming the same tune in my head for the last three days. Eric from the Mid-west, who's father and uncle fought in Vietnam, tells me it's a Country Joe Macdonald song well known among Vietnam veterans - the chorus goes like this. . .
And it's 1, 2, 3, what are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam
And it's 5, 6, 7, open those pearly gates
Well there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die
Thursday 24: Uncle Ho is still held in great esteem and his mausoleum certainly looks like the tomb of a well respected leader - his portrait is everywhere. After lunch, Vietnam's Temple of Literature (founded 1070) is the country's first seat of learning. Festooned with bright banners and lanterns it's a pretty example of early Vietnamese architecture and remains fairly intact despite US air bombardment of the city during the American war. In the evening while enjoying street corner Bia Hoi or draught 'Fresh Beer' (at about 17p a glass) I have my sandals repaired again - the straps were sewn in India and are okay - this time the soles are stitched.
Friday 25: Set in a stylish French colonial building the History Museum has a range of Bronze Age relics - magnificent drums, bells and gongs as well as lacquer-wood carvings and artifacts from all over southeast Asia. The local restaurant opposite, Nha Hang Lan Chin, serves quite exotic fare - eel, tortoise, frog, snake - all cooked in various ways. Although I'm sure it's very nice I decide to give the 'beef testicle stewed with duck' a miss (I'm not keen on duck) - the 'pork with lemongrass and chilli' served with steamed rice and more Bia Hoi suits me fine.
The Museum of Vietnamese Revolution mostly tracks the fight against the French. Helping to bring the story to life, Madame la Guillotine, from the French built Hoa Lo Prison (later nicknamed the 'Hanoi Hilton' by US POW's) was used to behead many Vietnamese revolutionaries during the colonial period.
Pictures of Hanoi.