12 January 2013
We set off across town to visit the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum which was a very solemn affair. We queued around an enormous parade ground that would have been packed at other times of year when it was above 10C but today just hosted a few hardy souls. Despite this there was a full military guard changing shifts in synchronised marching groups. A VIP group was ushered in first and then appropriately screened and instructed not to talk smile or take photos and some admonished for walking with hands behind their backs we walked in single file around his well preserved body lying in state. One guard was trying manfully to stifle a fit of the giggles but otherwise a very sombre occasion. We were amazed at hope much space was dedicated to this facility in a city so crowded.
Next stop was the museum which initially promised hours of boredom as we passed through galleries about the American war and endless photos of uniformed men shaking hands or in smiling groups with copies of every piece of correspondence for decades displayed for our viewing pleasure. But then we ascended the staircase to a giant statue of HCM himself and then through to the most modern extravagant and tasteful display of all things ancient and modern that I have ever seen. It must have been the designer’s dreams come true.
We’re early for lunch so we have a look inside a temple complex nearby. It is a wonderfully peaceful place but today it is the scene for graduation photos and several of the guys in our group are asked to be in the pictures for reasons unknown.
We lunch at Koto another restaurant set up to train disadvantaged youth. It was just as well we’d booked because even though it was large it was absolutely packed and groups were being turned away.
We had the afternoon free and Ingrid, Sarah and I search the streets of the old quarter for pictures paintings and embroideries and then for food and drink to take with us on our next train journey. We marvel and how quickly we have got used to negotiating the teaming streets as we step confidently out into the seething mass of traffic and arrive unscathed at the other side.
With victuals procured the group heads to the main train station which is miniscule compared with Bangkok Central. We board the Reunification Express overnighting to Hue and find our way to our cabins. This is also quite different as we are in cabins of 4 bunks with locking doors which seemed good to start with but the shine rapidly wore off as we saw how dirty and tired everything was and how few facilities there were. Not to be daunted we sat on the bunks eating our sandwiches and drinking Tiger beer. Kom told us about the effects of wars/Pol Pot on his family (we have led very sheltered lives in comparison).
By 8.00 we had exhausted conversation and retired to our respective bunks for what was to be for some a very long night. I decided on a sleeping tablet and slumbered blissfully unaware of the many juddering and jerking stops and starts but still woke feeling worse for wear. Somewhere about an hour and half before our arrival we cross the demilitarised area at the 17th parallel.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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