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Sunday, January 24, 2010


A couple of final notes about Ha Noi. The temperature was in the 50's and I never saw the sun. When you drive or walk around in your hometown, how many stores do you see selling only computers and accessories? Maybe none? On a cyclo tour of the Old Quarter we passed at least a hundred. Driving a cyclo:
File:Bao Dai 1953.jpgXem ảnh với kích cỡ đầy đủ

I flew to Central Vietnam, where there are several historic cultural sites. I'm now in Hue (pronounced "way"), which served as the imperial capitol from 1802 to 1945, when the end of World War II saw the last emperor, Bao Dai (photo above and left), effectively losing power to finally about a decade later abdicate to France with his family. In all, he had 5 wives. The country was split into north and south (similar to Korea), with Ha Noi becoming the northern capitol and Sai Gon in the south. Dai passed away in 1997 at the age of 84 and his family never returned to Viet Nam.

Like in Beijing, there is an impressive Imperial City and Forbidden (Purple) Palace. A major battle of the Tet (means Chinese New Year holiday) Offensive in 1968 was fought in Hue, and the Palace was severely damaged. Restoration is in full progress, and is expected to take two decades. Ironically, the South and U.S suffered a tenth the casualties of the North, but lost the hearts and minds of the people of American with this "victory."

The cost of things is mostly lower here. While gasoline is about $3.50/gallon, you can have a pho on the street for about a buck and this rather luxurious Hue hotel I'm staying in, La Residence, has a special for two: $140/person, which would include airport transfer, daily breakfast (the buffet borders on the spectacular, but not as impressive as at the Metropole), royal dinner (absolutely fabulous barbeque buffet) and free bicycle rental and internet.

There remains a sense of Honolulu in the 50's. Come now if you want to see a still charming Viet Nam, at least beyond the metropolitan areas. In a quarter century, this country will become Hawaii of today. I should re-state this. Ha Noi already has three times the population of Hawaii, and Sai Gon has about 10 million, with an expectation of 20 million in a decade. There are 25 million motorbikes, and they all are lethal weapons.

Alert! Alert! I wondered why, after four days, I had not seen an ant, mosquito, cockroach, rodent or fly, even at those nauseous outdoor markets. The explanation was that they keep things well sanitized here. I finally saw my first two ants by the pool of the La Residence, large black ones.

Next, Danang and China Beach.

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