Friday, 12 March 2010

Tuesday 9th March

First stop for the day: Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum. Not really sure why the Vietnamese decided to embalm the poor guy, particularly since he wanted to be cremated. It's an enormous draw to both Vietnamese and tourists - the queue is literally hundreds of meters long, but moves fairly quickly as everyone satisfies their morbid curiosity (or reverence in the case of the locals). He's looking a bit yellow - lots of brylcreem on his whispy hair... The building itself has no architectural merits that we could spot - it's a huge soulless marble monstrosity in the middle of a fairly unremarkable park. And it doesn't improve inside either! The guards are all dressed in white uniforms and enforce the correct "respectful" attitude from all the gawpers. Hands by your sides, no hats, longs sleeves and trousers, no cameras, no smiling, no talking, ...

After the mausoleum we went to the Ho Chi Minh museum - a big concrete building that allegedly looks like a lotus flower (?!). The "museum" was more like a Crystal Maze puzzle as you had to piece together disparate newspaper cuttings, photos and abstract works of art in a vain effort to make sense of the history. However he was obviously an extremely charismatic and passionate leader.

Tried to get a pair of trousers for Olly - turned out they were rather too short - like a good four inches. We'll try again later. Following visits to a couple of galleries, and the discovery of an English bookshop, we caught the night train to Sapa for a few days trekking up near the Chinese border. The night train was very exciting - the driver appeared to have digital throttle control and we kept waking up through the night suspended in mid air thinking "Oh my God we're going to die!". However at 4:30am we arrived.

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