In and Around Hanoi -- and Travels Beyond and WELL Beyond
As I'm WRITING, our time in Hanoi and Vietnam is rapidly catapulting toward conclusion. The photos and commentary of this blog date back quite a while and up to about 2 weeks ago.
First, a couple of pictures that I may have shared on Facebook, but I don't think that I had a chance to put them in the blog.
The first weekend we got here, the local Chabad (Yes, Chabad in Hanoi -- also in Ho Chi Minh City) dedicated a new Torah that had been brought from the US. Attending THAT event connected us with other members of the Jewish community here -- which led to participating in Chanukah candlelighting at the Israeli Ambassador's residence -- and being invited by a Jewish woman who works at the German embassy to join in rehearsals and performance of Beethoven's 9th with the Vietnam Symphony. I may have told you about that -- but it bears repeating! What a phenomenal experience THAT was!
ANYWAY, below are two photos from the Chanukah candlelighting the first night of Chanukah -- at the home (and center) of the Chabad rabbi, Levi Laine. How their sign came to say "Happy Chakunah" is anyone's guess. But the food, I'm sure, was kosher!
|I may have shared this photo before. . . but the view out of Ho Tay -- West Lake --is worth repeating.|
Like many other things around here, it's unbelievably inexpensive by U.S. standards. Our typical 30 minute Uber ride costs $3 to $4 -- or less.
Before embarking on a weeklong journey with my sister Carol and her husband Steve which took in Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong River, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (the latter two places being in Cambodia), we enjoyed a visit to the Hanoi Botanical Garden (one photo above and 4 photos below) -- another rare green spot in an otherwise overwhelmingly concrete city. (That being said, I find myself describing a number of such places in blogs and on Facebook -- so there ARE green spaces to be found -- but one needs to make some effort to find them.)
|Badminton is VERY popular in Vietnam.|
After our visit to the Botanical Garden, we walked around the area of Ho Chi Minh's tomb and museum and the Government Palace.
We would go back to visit those on another day -- as they were closed on the Sunday that we were there (they are only open until early afternoon most days) -- but doing it THIS way actually afforded us an opportunity to take pictures in a respectful way of the guards at the Ho Chi Minh Tomb shortly after the changing of the guard. The guards shown are leaving the area of the tomb. One is prohibited from photographing when standing in the line waiting to get in to see the preserved remains of Ho Chi Minh -- but since there was no line and no one could go in, we weren't (I think) breaking the rules. Nice photo:
Below, we begin our trip to the Cu Chi tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City (otherwise known as Saigon). I almost always call it Ho Chi Minh City -- because that's what the government calls it -- and I think I ought to respect the government in this matter. Residents, however, are at least as likely to call it Saigon (Sai Gon), in part because it was the part of the country that sought (at least in part) to be separate from the North back during the Vietnam war A number of our guides on this trip were people who were adversely affected by the events of the 1960s through the 1990s.
In any case, we stopped along the way to see a rubber forest. What a haunting young girl, seeking to sell small mementos with her family. . . .
The Cu Chi Tunnels are one of those things that are a very complicated experience for an American visiting in Vietnam today. They were indispensable to the Viet Cong effort to undermine the work of the Americans and the South Vietnamese army. To today's Vietnamese, they represent the courage and ingenuity of an outgunned military force and local population to defeat, frustrate and terrorize the enemy.
One can only imagine how disspiriting it would be for American soldiers to encounter the dangers throughout this area.
|completely flush into the ground/tunnel. . .|
|and then to emerge when safe to do so.|
Yes, that's Susan And I did it, too -- and my sister and brother-in-law.
|One of at least a half-dozen different kinds of traps that unsuspecting -- or suspecting -- US servicemen were likely to fall into when patrolling the area, searching for the disappearing enemy.|
Suffice it to say that it's very very difficult work to pursue the enemy in their country under such circumstances -- and the Vietcong fought and acted as if they were fighting for their very lives and protecting their homeland -- which they of course were -- and had been fighting for this since 1945.
Our guide for the trip to the tunnels was a former member of the South Vietnamese Army -- so he was on the American side in the war. He acknowledged that the Vietcong benefited from many soldiers who were really playing both sides of the street -- understandable, but again making the American task more impossible.
And although many of us are pleased that we now have a pretty significant positive relationship -- diplomatically and economically -- with Vietnams -- that people like him feel a little abandoned: He was our friend in a way that the current government wasn't. And once we established relations with the current government, people like him are forgotten and essentially left out in the cold -- and they already suffered after the war by being sent to re-education camps, etc.
A difficult and complicated situation. War is hell. Even more so on the losers. Or at least the non-winners.
|Steps down into a tunnel modeled on the place where the Vietcong leadership met during the War.|
Not shown -- some of the tiny places we crawled into or through. What a terrible time no matter which side you were on
Thanks for all your kind words and encouragement.