It’s been a while which for my part has been because we went to Vietnam and I wanted to start that post with a brief history of the Vietnam war. The problem with that plan is that I know embarrassingly little about the Vietnam war (or rather wars as it turns out).
I then searched for a history book about Vietnam thinking I would read it during the travelling parts of the trip ready for my blog post afterwards. The problem with THAT plan is that the book I bought, though highly regarded was a pretty massive 750 pages. With Kindles it’s always difficult to tell how big that actually is depending on the font size of the original printed version but I’m assuming the print must have been pretty small as it’s taking me ages to get through it. By the time we left Vietnam I hadn’t even gotten to the American part of the Vietnam war and was only up to the French part; yes there’s a French part and it was pretty much as hopeless and horrible as the American part. I have been taking copious notes ready to write up a summary of the book but I won’t be ready to actually write it up for weeks by which time it will be irrelevant to anyone reading this so I may or may not do it.
We ended up going to Hanoi first and then Hoi An (not to be confused with each other). Hanoi is on the north east coast of Vietnam and during the American part of the wars was the main city of North Vietnam. The French influence is very apparent in Hanoi which to my mind has a very Parisian feel with French style architecture, street cafes, breakfast baguettes and finally an opera house looking just like the one in Paris. Judging by the fashion I would say Vietnam is much more modern than Myanmar and much more liberated from a gender point of view. Vietnam coffee is quite famous sometimes being filtered in the glass. It was a bit strong for me although better in ice format.
In Hanoi we visited an old house which has been preserved in the original style. The houses were all long and thin as the taxes were based on the width of a house so they preferred them to go deep rather than wide. The influence before the French was mainly Chinese as Vietnam was colonised by China for long periods of its history. We saw many more in Hoi An and they were all very nice with carved wooden ceilings and inner open court yards. In Hoi An in one house we were shown around by someone and seemingly a large rat who amusingly climbed up the stairs ahead of us as if to show us the way.
We also visited a prison known by the Americans as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. It was mainly for captured pilots from shot down bombers and John McCain spent 5 and a half years there. According to the information presented there, the Americans were all treated well with photos of them playing basketball etc however, McCain’s injuries he received there left him permanently unable to raise his arms above his head.
After Hanoi we flew to Danang and got a taxi to Hoi An where we stayed in two different places. One a hotel by a river and one a hotel by the sea. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was a trading port from the 15th to the 19th century. Silt increases in the river eventually made it untenable as a port but the buildings have all been preserved and were miraculously unscathed by the wars. It is still a trading town if you class that as a host of shops almost entirely aimed at the tourists flocking there. Their speciality is tailoring and you can have a set of clothes made up quickly and cheaply. The funny thing we noticed were whole families dressed in the same material which was usually quite a flamboyant print not far from a Hawaiian style. The tourists there were largely Asian with the top activity being photo shoots. We are now used to that from living in Myanmar but this was extreme to say the least.
After a couple of days of Hoi An we were happy to move to our beach hotel for a few days of relaxing before flying back to Myanmar. The hotel was very nice and we had a sea front room. In the early mornings we walked along the beach while the heat was still bearable. While we were there it was some of the hottest weather we have experienced so far. We spent no intentional time in the sun but still managed to get pretty burnt. One amusing hotel tradition was that in the afternoons they would bring several large blocks of ice to the pool and cut them up and then float them in. It made no difference to the overall temperature of the pool but did allow you to cool off for a bit while the ice melted. In the evenings we went to a beach restaurant with fresh seafood in tanks ready to be eaten. Perhaps it was cocky but on our last night we ordered oysters which were pretty good. Unfortunately, one of them can’t have agreed with Lindsey who suffered the consequences that night.
This post has gone on long enough so I’ll leave the rest of our summer break to the next post. Spoiler alert the next post has a rattlesnake in it!