North to South - Day Two
Our second full day in Vietnam has been busy to say the least! From cruising through the streets in rickshaws to an all-you-can-eat Vietnamese buffet, Valentine's Day in Vietnam has had a lot to offer. We have been up and out since 7:00am, and to be honest, we would rather be sleeping than writing this blog.
But like the beliefs of the Socialist government we are in, every small sacrifice counts for the betterment of the group! Hanoi by night awaits.
To begin the day, we hopped on the bus and went to the first University of Vietnam to explore the vast courtyards and listen to native music. A few of us will even be bringing home some Vietnamese instruments to play and master on our own! The quiet atmosphere was easily appreciated, since the last few days have been a bit hectic and confusing.
By far the creepiest part of our day was visiting Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum. Upon arrival, we were greeted with the glares of military personnel, strictly monitoring all activities in the compound with stern faces and sharp bayonets. We then lined up and silently entered the mausoleum to be greeted by the sight of Ho Chi Minh himself, his cold hands resting on his thighs. We weren't expecting to see his body, so the experience was a bit harrowing for most of us. Still, it was humbling to see the man who had such a profound effect on the government and citizens of Vietnam. Then we toured the rest of the compound and saw where "Uncle Ho" had his beginnings. After learning about the modest accommodations Ho Chi Minh was used to, we were surprised by how his body was displayed openly to the public in such a pompous and extravagant way. Still, seeing Ho Chi Minh's compound put a lot of what we've learned in history class into perspective.
After visiting Ho Chi Minh, we headed to an all-you-can-eat buffet for lunch. The buffet was culturally diverse, ranging from sushi to french fries to fried maggots. We saw first hand how courteous the people of Vietnam are, and persistent when it comes to chowing down on chicken feet. Matsuo Chino especially enjoyed the sparrow brains, going back not only for seconds, but for sevenths.
One of the more anticipated activities followed the buffet - the "Hanoi Hilton", the prison where John McCain and dozens of other US Soldiers were contained and tortured during the war. Walking through the poorly lit cells, we could imagine the suffering that people underwent while chained by their ankles to the sloped, concrete floors. What brought the stories to life was the sight of the torture devices like electrical wires, gasoline buckets, and water-boards. The sacrifices made by the US Soldiers during the war are inspiring and their recognition is truly deserved, whether people believe in the war or not. Seeing the conditions of the prison helped us understand their hardships.
After a heart-pounding jaunt through Hanoi in rickshaws and a short break at the hotel, we hopped on the bus yet again and headed to a Buddhist Pagoda and met the orphans and veterans that live there. We passed out some donations and spent the next hour playing with the children. It was heartwarming to see the expressions of the orphans upon receiving their school supplies, clothes, and candy. Hopefully we will be able to see them again before we take the train to Sapa tomorrow.
So parents, as you can see, they are truly keeping us busy here in Vietnam. Needless to say, we are definitely getting your money's worth. Now off into the city to continue to explore and learn.
Joey Benoit, Savannah Benes, and Walker Newton