This morning we woke up in Ho Chi Minh but we will be ending the day in Hanoi. For those unfamiliar with the geography of Vietnam, to be honest I still am learning the location of most major cities, Hanoi is pretty far north in relation to Ho Chi Minh and to go by train or bus would take a few days or about 32 hours according to Google maps. Cities in Vietnam in general are not super far from each other but the roads aren’t great so journeys by car or bus can take many hours. Most people either start in Hanoi and make their way down to Ho Chi Minh city or they start in Ho Chi Minh city and make their way to Hanoi stopping along the way.
We originally wanted to start with Hanoi and end in Ho Chi Minh but it ended up being more affordable to book a round trip flight and then fly separately once in the country. So tonight we are on a two hour flight from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. I am writing this from the plane with hopes to post it later tonight.
We had a pretty packed day of sight seeing with Tamir playing tour guide. We started with the War Remnants Museum which our friend Noam (we went to Thailand together in 2014) highly recommended. We spent a couple hours there and I think it’s safe to say we all found it to be very interesting. I think in hindsight most Americans feel that we should not have been in check and that it was not our war to fight. The museum drives this point home with very graphic illustrations of the horrors of the war. It was powerful to see and really interesting from an American point of view to see the history of the war from the other side. I had a similar experience when I was in the Jewish museum in Berlin in 2009. Seeing the other side’s perspective is fascinating and I think important.
After the museum we walked by the Independence Palace, the Saigon Notre-Dame Bascilla, and the Saigon Central Post Office. We stopped to get banh mi for lunch and then continued on to see Municipal Theatre and the Bitexco Financial Tower.
On our way to the observation deck at the financial tower we saw this really interesting building which looked like an apartment building with balconies facing the street but instead of apartments they were coffee shops and restaurants. We decided to go in and proceeded to climb nine stories until we reached Boo Coffee. It was an adorable coffee shop with fun drinks and a cool vibe. We hung out there for a bit and then walked across the street to the financial tower. We did the tourist thing there and observed the city from the 49th floor of the observation deck. Then a quick stop at the river and back to our hotel for our flight to Hanoi!
Taking a domestic flight was pretty interesting and not so different from what you would expect but we definitely stuck out as tourists in my opinion. It seemed the majority of our flight was composed of people who live here and are traveling within the country. I slept the whole flight and am now at our hostel in Hanoi about to go to bed before our trip to Halong Bay tomorrow. We are leaving at 7:30am and it is a four hour drive to the boat from our hostel. We will be spending all of tomorrow relaxing and then sleeping on the boat and we will come back on Wednesday to Hanoi. The plan is to take an overnight train from Hanoi to Sa Pa on Wednesday night.
When we got into Hanoi tonight we meet up with our surprise guest – Hunter! He has been traveling in South East Asia for our about six weeks and we just caught him before he heads back to the states. We were skill so excited to see each other and so grateful for the planned run in. Shosh was also waiting for us at the hostel, she got in earlier today. We dropped our stuff and went out for beers and a hot pot. It was great to finally have our group together and really feel like we are starting this trip.
Happy fourth of July! I’m hoping to be able to write from the boat with more updates!