Barry and I headed out early and left the kids in the room. George was up and Molly was sound asleep. Barry got his run in while I walked around the lake and enjoyed all the early morning sights I'd been missing while I read in bed most mornings. The city is wide awake at 7:30 and the Vietnamese and foreigners were out commuting and getting exercise. The perimeter of the lake was full of runners, walkers, badminton players, dancers, aerobic groups and people watchers. I thought the dancers were the most interesting - couples gather to dance to music on an old ghetto blaster for their morning exercise. It was perfectly delightful to watch. The lyrics, "down to Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico" were stuck in my head the rest of the day.
The Old Catholic Cathedral built during the French Colonial period looks simple and a little neglected on the outside, but the inside was well kept. I'm not sure what the Catholic population is like in Hanoi these days, but I'm willing to bet they'd all fit in this one large church.
Perhaps you caught George's blog commenting on all the knock-off Lego products. He especially wanted mini-figures (one Lego charcter) and small cars, which is good because they're very easy to carry around. Over the past few days he's spent about $25-30 buying what would have cost 4-5 times that if they were "real" Lego at home. Plus, it's kinda fun to buy authentic "Stars Wars", or "Star Warts" products! We hit the market stalls again in search of the newest villain that alluded him yesterday. We eventually found him.
We had a good burrito and mediocre tacos for lunch , then we went to the French Quarter to see the "Hanoi Hilton." This nickname was given to the prison the French built to house revolutionaries who resisted the occupation. It was certainly no Hilton. It's hard not to compare the prison we visited that housed Nelson Mandela in South Africa with this one. Many of the prisoners who escaped here became leaders in the Communist Party in Vietnam, the same way Mandela and others went on to end apartheid and lead South Africa. During the Vietnam war, captured American soldiers were detained at the "Hilton." in "very reasonable conditions"....sounds like propaganda to me.
So after that interesting but slightly depressing visit, we headed back to the hotel to meet with Molly and Barry for a rest then dinner at the newly opened Dominos Pizza. Burritos and Pizza don't sound very Vietnamese (or very healthy), but tomorrow we leave the rather cosmopolitan city of Hanoi and to stay in a small city where our only option will be noodle soups, Bahn Mi sandwiches and rice dishes for the next five days. We love the food here, but the kids were happy to have "real pizza" for a change.
Barry had some how promised Molly ice cream today, so she and I split from the boys after dinner to get some. She'd been promised a big dessert at the restaurant beside the lake where we managed to spend a silly amount of money on a banana split. I had to help it was so big!
Our flaw in today's plan was that we didn't investigate carefully what might be closed on a Monday. My original intention was to take George to the War Museum, but I carelessly failed to read the fine print until this morning when I was double checking the map for directions. I'm sad we missed it, as I'm sure it's interesting. Next time.