Pritam Rohila Travels

Reports of my travels along with some pictures

Jun 8, 2012


Breakfast at the Sheraton was excellent in range of choices, quality of food and service. It was cool and windy this morning. We needed light jackets.

We started sightseeing in Hanoi, the first capital of Vietnam for almost 800 years, starting in 1010. It became capital again in 1954 after the French departed from Vietnam. Although smaller and less developed than Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), it has dozens of lakes, and some beautiful streets and neighborhoods.

Like most tourists we started at the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. He was the venerated leader of the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France, and of the resistance against the US-led
multi-billion-dollar military misadventure to “save” Vietnam from the dreaded Red menace.

A granite and concrete structure, and modeled after Lenin’s tomb, the Mausoleum sits at a high platform in the Ba Dinh Square. Ho lies here in state, embalmed and dressed in his favorite khaki suit, even though he had asked to be cremated! But the Mausoleum was closed, probably due to his annual body maintenance in Russia.

After a few pictures from the outside, we marched to the Presidential Palace, nearby. This gorgeous building had been erected by the French in 1909, to house the Governor General, during their occupation of Vietnam.

At the end of the Vietnam War, and reunification of North and South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh refused to live in the Presidential Palace. Instead, he continued to live in and work from a simple two-story traditional house on the stilts, from 1958 to 1969. The politburo met in the basement of Ho’s house. His bedroom and study were upstairs.
Nearby is the house where he lived and worked from 1954 to 1958.

A stone’s throw away is the One Pillar Pagoda. It sits on stilts over a small tank. It was built in 1049, by a Ly dynasty king, after he had a dream in which the Buddhist goddess of mercy presented him with a lotus flower.

Next we visited the Temple of Literature. Mr. Nam explained the difference in Vietnam, between a pagoda, which is a place of worship, and a temple, which is dedicated to a national hero or it could be a learning institution.

TheTemple was established in 1076, after more than 1100 years of Chinese colonialism (from 179 BC to 938 AD), as an elite institute to teach the doctrines of Confucius and his disciples.

It still has 82 stone tablets, on which are inscribed the names and birthplaces of 1,306 doctoral laureates who had passed the rigorous university examinations, and were erected between 1484 and 1780.

Next courtyard has the sanctuary, with altars to Confucius and his disciples.
In the doorway to this courtyard, we saw a group young men and women, dressed in traditional clothes, posing for their picture. Mr. Nam explained that they had just graduated from college.

People of Vietnam also take time out to pose for wedding photos and

...take a break with friends for snacks or coffee.

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