Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's Been a Quiet Tet in Hanoi

After the riot of fireworks celebrating the new year in Beijing, we didn't quite know what to expect when we arrived in Hanoi. But the city is surprisingly quiet -- I mean by bustling Asian city standards -- and there are no fireworks and only the occasional firecracker. I guess that makes sense in a country as scarred by war as Vietnam. They've had enough of bombs and things that sound like bombs. We visited the notorious Hanoi Hilton today, the prison that incarcerated John McCain and other Americans. Of course the general theme was that the Americans didn't have it so bad and the imprisonment of Vietnamese by the French was far worse. Even with the propaganda, it was a sobering place, with a shiver-inducing guillotine and leg shackles made of iron. The city is also surprisingly cold and I'm glad I brought my fleece jacket. We kept ducking into cafes to eat soup or drink hot chocolate. Tonight we'll splurge on "gourmet Vietnamese" food and tomorrow we'll venture on a day trip to Halong Bay, said to be even more beautiful than China's Guilin. I'm a big fan of karsts. And even though Hanoi is chilly, it's still better than bitter cold Beijing, and it's been fun to have a family vacation like the old days.

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