Hanoi, steeped in history is a hectic energetic city and the mix of French architecture, especially in the Old Quarter with Hoan Kiem Lake as its watery center and the modern hotels forms a picturesque backdrop that mixes the past with the present well. The entire city seems like it's made up of tight little alleys, which thank god for the traffic seems almost to be made up of mopeds and motorcycles because otherwise things would come to a standstill very quickly. Navigating is a bit of a challenge as the same street will change its name at every turn. Little puffs of steam come out from street corners serving up the specialty that is Pho, which is just noodle soup with beef, dried onions, mint, and some simple spices.
With Mao's body preserved in Beijing, we had to knock off another mausoleum with yet another preserved head of state, so off we went to see Ho Chi Minh himself as he was when he died in 1969. We were quickly shuffled through the site and found his star and sickle and hammer draped coffin lying with military guards at attention.
As difficult as it seems at first to navigate the city, Hanoi is a pretty small city in size and we were able to visit all the sites on foot, which included the Temple of Literature, a place where Confucianism was taught.
Vietnam has a storied past with the occupation of the French and then the Vietnam War, so visiting Hoa Lo Prison built by the French to suppress Communist leaders was an eye opening and sometimes graphic insight into the past. The prison also housed downed American pilots (POWs) during the Vietnam War, dubbed "Hanoi Hilton" by the prisoners and included a short documentary showing the bombing of the city along with letters, uniforms, and pictures of the inmates. A famous inmate was John McCain and showed his visit to the prison.