Friday, December 31, 2010

Tour of Hanoi

(PICTURE: Our tour group at the Temple of Literature.)

As a present to our guests, Huyen and I organized a tour of Hanoi on the 17th. We hired a small bus and picked up everyone in the morning at their hotels. We started the day off at the Army Museum where our tour guides (more on them tomorrow) told us about the organization of the museum and showed us the key exhibits. The Army Museum isn't my favorite museum but I like to take guests there because of the old planes, helicopoters and tanks as well as the historical citadel tower.

(PICTURE: Enlarge the picture and you can see my Uncle Barry at the top of the tower.)

One of the highlights of this stop was that there was a local school on a field trip at the museum. As everyone knows, there's few things in life cuter than dozens of children at a museum. Seemingly, every camera soon became pointed at the kids who were more than happy to pose for pictures. However, that wasn't the highlight; the highlight was when the students' teacher came up to Paul, the father of one of my best friends, and asked to take a picture with him. Well, he sort of didn't really ask so much as pull him in front of an old helicopter. And he didn't exactly have a camera of his own; he asked me to take a picture of him with my camera.

(PICTURE: Paul getting up close and personal with a local teacher.)

The next stop on our tour was the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam. I've been to this historic site no less than ten times (and went again a week later with my buddy JR) yet this time was by far the most special. Seeing all of my family and friends walk around the ruins was really an amazing site to see.

(PICTURE: Hannah and me making our frog faces; the exact same picture we took two years ago.)

(PICTURE: My dad in front of a pagoda flag.)

(PICTURE: Mark and Anthony in front of a giant bell.)

After the Temple of Literature, we ate lunch at KOTO. KOTO is not one of my favorite restaurants for food but I decided to take everyone there for two reasons:
Reason 1: It's a nice and clean place which would please some of my non-street-food-eating guests.
Reason 2: More importantly, KOTO is a charitable organization that takes street kids and teaches them skills to work in the service industry.

My parents picked up the tab for lunch for everyone and made me very proud when my father said something like, "Lunch is on us. However, on your way out, please donate whatever you want to the charity." I thought this was pretty awesome of my parents.

Following lunch we went to the Hanoi Hilton, the famous prison where John McCain was imprisoned. Following our brief tour their, we boarded the bus and went to the Water Puppet Theater. If you're a long time reader of my blog, you'll know that I've always been anti water puppets. This hatred stems back to my first weeks in Vietnam when I saw an atrocious show in HCMC. However, I must admit, with the live music and the artistry of the puppets, the show in Hanoi was actually quite entertaining.

After the puppets finished, the tour ended and everyone had a couple of hours to relax before dinner...