Vietnam: Hanoi and the start of the Tucan Tour

25/9 and 26/9
We had a long rest before heading to Ban Mi 25 for delicious sandwiches. Ban Mi is a really popular style of food in Vietnam and is a throwback to French colonial days. The baguettes are like traditional French baguettes but much crispier and slightly sweet. People tend to enjoy it with pork but I went for chicken. It was so good we went back for seconds. They only set you back about 80p so seeing as they were so yummy, it made sense to fill up so we didn’t need to eat again.

We met with Charles, our new tour leader, who talked us through what to expect for the tour of South East Asia and we had a general chat to get to know each other. His number one rule is ‘have a sense of humour’ so I think we will be fine!
The next morning we got up early and headed out to go to the Temple of Literature, the oldest University in Vietnam. It was the hottest day so far, so I had to stop to buy a £2 sun hat to keep my head cool- sun stroke is not on my agenda. We walked for quite some time to get there and it was really interesting. There was lots of quintessential Vietnamese architecture and loads of history, but we were really struggling with the intensity of the heat.

Our next stop was Hoa Lo prison, a sight where originally revolutionaries were held but more recently American pilots who had been shot down were tortured and detained there.

Some of the stories of the torture were unbelievable, including shackled ankles designed so that the head of the convict was lower than that of their feet, causing extreme discomfort.

Inmates were given mouldy food, contaminated water and some even faced the guillotine. It was absolutely amazing to be able to go into the cells themselves including those of convicts who had been given the death penalty.

We also saw the excavated sewer system through which many convicts managed to escape. It was incredibly narrow, so I can’t imagine how terrible the torture must have been to have chosen to escape through such a horrendous route.

We soon met our new tour group for dinner who we will be with until Bangkok. I was a little nervous as the group had already formed friendships but everyone was really welcoming so I felt better more or less straight away. As we had such a dream group in China, we were both thinking we wouldn’t feel as comfortable, but so far it’s been great so we are very relieved! This group is much more multi-national than our Dragon Trip group, with quite a few people from Ireland, one Scottish lady, a Portuguese lady (who lives in the Maldives-jealous!) and some Canadians and Kiwis. We are the only English people on the tour, and lots of people are from places we are visiting or have visited places we are going to, so we’ve already had lots of good advice!
I somehow managed to slice my foot on a little bit of glass so we couldn’t hang out with the group after dinner as we had to go back for some glass removal, but we are looking forward to getting to know them some more over the next few days.