The day started out with fresh fruit and a coffee in a cute little Vietnamese bistro down the street from my hotel. The tables were set in a courtyard surrounded by low hanging trees and various indigenous plants. The shade, along with the late rising sun, provided a cool breeze to go along with a beautiful Hanoi morning.  After breakfast my friend and I met our tour guide and driver in front of our hotel. I recommend a private tour guide and driver while traveling anywhere in South East Asia. It is cheap, efficient and unbelievably convenient.

The guide started with a short speech about our itinerary and a brief history of Ho Chi Minh. After all, we were heading to his house so why not start there. Ho Chi Minh is a bit of an enigma. He traveled extensively through America, Asia and Europe; he sailed from Italy to Bangkok. He studied Confucianism (his dad was a Confucian scholar and teacher). He was introduced to Communism in France and later, in China, studied it at length. Once he returned to his native land he became active in politics and military actions; ultimately becoming President and Prime Minister of Vietnam.

We arrived at Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and couldn’t resist the communist jokes. I mean it just feels so North Korean here. It is a nice mausoleum; don’t get me wrong but it’s so communist. You can’t help but imagine paid supporters surrounding military tanks and soldiers marching in unison. After some photos we went to the parliament house. It is a beautiful French constructed mansion. Ho chi minh decided not to reside there and chose a more practical, one story structure a stones throw away. The beautifully manicured grounds of Ho Chi Minh’s house surround a lake and Ho Chi Minh’s retirement house is located in back. Yes; Ho Chi Minh moved….to behind the lake in his later years. I would have picked the Mediterranean, but that’s me. His second house is a typical Asian stilt house, which I love.

The one tier pagoda is also on the grounds which is quite the tourist attraction. A short staircase leads to the pagoda where photos are taken but not much else is happening.

Next stop was a gorgeous temple on the lake. This temple combines three religions/ideologies; Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. The temple is laid out beautifully and elegantly. The interior boasts magnificent images of Buddha and other religious symbols.

Next stop was the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. The museum boasts an extensive collection of items time lining the history of Vietnam culture. To tell you the truth, having been travelling around Asia and learning about the culture, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thai all share similarities in history, style and life. So for me the museum was a bit same old same old. The museum is good though. The best part for me was the true-to-scale homes located behind the museum. Each diverse tribe of Vietnam had their own construction methods; very interesting.

After a short intermission of lunch, a nap due to a slight hangover, and a few beers we ended up at the highly anticipated water puppet show. I heard a lot about it and was excited to see it. It was a packed house when we arrived; some seats were even double booked causing some funny and awkward interactions between tourists. One thing to mention is the crammed seating. I, standing 203meters tall, am always crammed, but my friend is only 190m and he had a tough time getting into his seat.

The show is narrated in the native tongue and subtitled on flat screens. The show is intriguing at first but actually dies quite quick. I saw my friend sleeping about 15 minutes in, then I looked around and about 50% of the audience was sound asleep within 20 minutes.

I thought the hour long show could have been shortened and I thought it was a bit boring. Though it was interesting and I can see how the local children loved to watch it on the farms before bed; which is where this art began. The performance is how the locals taught their children the classic Vietnam fables back in the day.

After a long day I took another nap and then hit the clubs. First was Seventeen Cowboy Bar, with beautiful Vietnamese girls serving drinks and welcoming patrons. Then we ended up at another local club in the old quarter. The old quarter is amazing to walk around in during the day and quite lively at night; a must for any traveler.

All in all, an excellent day and a fun night; even if I don’t remember all of the night.