Visiting Vietnam – Reliving the Past and Exploring the Future


With all the American History and a career in the military, we did not know exactly what to expect in Vietnam. Would the people be friendly or hold the past against us. Would we be overcome with propaganda skewed against Americans? We arrived at a lovely hotel (Babylon Hotel) in Hanoi where we were greeted like family by June, Mary, Kate, and Nam. Hanoi is a city of 12 million residents with 8 million mopeds/motorcycles. As a result, sidewalks are never available to walk on, they are purely motorcycle parking. There are two rules you must never forget when crossing the street as a result of the heavy motorcycle traffic. Rule One: don’t stop…..maintain a steady pace as this allows the mopeds to time their movement to pass just in front or behind you. Rule Two: Never ever step backwards or you will be hit. Near the hotel was a street market open Fridays and Saturday nights and a large lake. On Sunday afternoons, the streets around the lake are closed and full of small children on Big Wheel bikes and play scooters. The lake also was the site of a Pagoda and a Water Puppet Theater. Walking around town was easy and we visited many small restaurants and the Vietnam Woman’s Museum, plus took a walking street food tour. The highlight of the tour was a stop at the original coffee house where the first egg coffee was served.

Babylon Hotel
HOtel staff
Typical Street
Lake Pagoda
Water Puppet Show
Food Tour
Egg Coffee
Street Vendor
Women Museum

While in Hanoi, we did two tours, the first was to Nimh Binh which included a tour of the Pagoda built for the first king and a trip around a large nearby lake by rowboat.

The second was to Halong Bay, a beautiful get-away area where the locals go to vacation. Another good thing to know is that a Pagoda is built to honor a ancestor/hero and a Temple is built to worship a God.

Pagoda Gate
Pagoda Altar
Nearby Lake
King Kong (film) Island
Our Rower (after 3 hrs)
Halong Bay

Our last excursion in Hanoi was a guided tour to some of the major sites. We saw the Ho Chi Minh Memorial (unfortunately closed for refurbishment), the one pillar pagoda (built on a single block), and a lacquer factory..

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Lacquer Facdtory

Ho CHi Minh City

Our final stop in Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon. A city of 20 million residents, but 12 million mopeds/motor.cycles. The good news…they do not park them on the sidewalks. The bad news: when a traffic light turns red, hundreds of motorcycles simply leave the road and go up on the sidewalk without slowing down. Let the pedestrian beware! Getting around was easy and we were able to see a great show at the Opera House, enjoy different restaurants (including one German restaurant), and get massages at very reasonable prices.

Opera House

A private tour of the city gave us the opportunity to see the Independence Palace (Al)so known as the Reunification Palace), the Vietnam War Museum, and the City Market. At the palace you could easily imagine Ho Chi Minh and his wife meeting with foreign dignitaries as they tried to mold the new Vietnam. The War Museum once again proved that history is in the eyes of the victor.

Reunification Palace
Market Building
War Memorial

By far the best part of Ho Chi Minh was our road trip to The Mekong Delta. On the way we stopped at a Temple and were able to see large statues of the three types of Buddhas (the sitting, standing, and reclining Buddhas. Then once on the river, we stopped at honey farms, were entertained by local musicians and singers, and took a short journey down one of the inlets.

Reclining Buddha
Mekong Delta Boar
Mekong Musicians
Mekong Singers
Mekong Inner Waterway
Mekong Happy Couple
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