Sunday, Feb. 7th (Hanoi Day 1)

  • Woke up in time for our hostel’s (Flipside Hostel) complimentary breakfast at 10am.
  • Had a relaxing rest of the morning hanging around the hostel, then set off to explore Hanoi just after Noon.
  • Unfortunately due to the Vietnamese New Year, Tet, a couple of the sites were closed (Bach Ma temple and Ngoc Son temple).
  • However, our stroll around the Old Quarter was still a great way to get a feel for the city.
  • We checked out Hoan Kiem Lake, St. Joseph Cathedral, and Hoa Lo Prison.
  • The prison in particular was very interesting.  It was used to house Vietnamese political prisoners during France’s occupation in the early 20th century, and later for the detention of American POWs during the Vietnam War.
  • The displays were clearly biased towards the Vietnamese perspective but it was still cool to see some of the relics, such as John McCain’s flight suit from when he was shot down over Truc Bach lake.
  • We returned to the hostel and relaxed for a bit before meeting up with our crew from Phong Nha and heading out again to find some street food for dinner.
  • Back at our hostel we had a few drinks on the rooftop before heading down to Hoan Kiem Lake for the firework display to ring in the New Year.
  • We ended up sitting right beside the launching station with fireworks exploding directly over head.  The percussion from our front row seats was incredible and we all left feeling slightly dazed while ash floated down around us.
  • Part of the Tet tradition includes lighting fires on the street, fueled by Tet decorations, fake tributary money, and generally anything else lying around.
  • It felt apocalyptic as we walked back to our hostel amid people wandering aimlessly, smoke drifting through the air, ash raining down, and hundreds of street fires burning on corners and in alleyways with crowds of people hunched around feeding the flames.
  • Our group made a quick stop for a New Year bowl of soup on the street then everyone returned to their respective hostels for some rest.
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