Hanoi is really the first big city we’ve hit since leaving Hangzhou (our night in a hotel next to the train station in Nanning doesn’t count). And as far as ‘reaching civilization’ goes, Hanoi is a good place to do it. Sixty years after the French left and more than thirty since the last —-American POWs came home, the city caters well to Western (mostly old French and young American?) tourists. The cheap hotels are amazingly clean, the average service industry worker speaks some really decent English, and there are many comforts of home: space, working ATMs, coffee. Owen even tasted his first piece of pizza here!
But after two days, we knew it was time to move on.
The must-see tourist sites were all incredibly boring (although it was fun to see every soldier at the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum ask our one-year-old to please observe silence), and we’d quickly gotten more than our fill of people-watching. The final straw may have been during our matinee viewing of the almost insultingly crass and weirdly propagandistic (and yet culturally a must-see!) water puppets theatre, when a lady in a tour group seated behind us tapped my shoulder and requested that I not lean over to talk to Owen, because it blocked her view of some of the little splashy puppets on the left side of the stage. And there I was thinking that only a 1-year-old really could or ought to find this thing worth watching. As we squeezed around the line that was forming (ah, Westerners!) to buy puppet-inspired souvenirs after the show, we agreed that we’d leave the next day. Nothing against Hanoi itself–it’s just that once we’d done some proper laundry and gotten our fill of parks and internet, there wasn’t much of a reason to stick around. To see a bit of northern Vietnam, we had to get out.
Below: some pictures, mostly from the zoo (where Owen held up his small toy underpants-wearing cat so it could see the animals, too) and Reunification Park (where we watched a group of teenage boys do death-defying flips, and Owen learned to avoid the swings).