After buying tickets for the night's performance of the water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, we dropped by the Tourist Information Center nearby.
I did not find the Tourist Information Center very helpful. The map they provide was not good as there were far too many ads and lacked details. In fact, the staff at the hotel where I stayed were more helpful in providing me advice and tips on traveling in Hanoi.
Oh, and that's Trung Nguyen Coffee - the No.1 coffee company in Vietnam. Surprisingly, I was not interested in trying the coffee! LOL. Maybe because I thought they were too commercialised and rather pricey.
We found a bookstore nearby - it's called Bo Ho Bookshop.
At this bookshop, I found and bought this Hanoi Old Town Tourist map selling at 45,000 VND (US$2.10).
This is a very good map as it provides colourful drawings of buildings and streets of the Old Quarter in Hanoi. With this map, I'm pretty sure you will never get lost in the maze of the Old Quarter.
My friend and I decided to walk all the way from Hoan Kiem Lake to Ba Dinh Square. We estimated that it would probably take us 45 minutes to an hour to reach there. Maybe we should have taken the taxi or cyclo (three wheel rickshaw) or even xe om (motorbike taxis) but I did not regret walking all the way there.
Along the way, we stopped by a bakery shop at Phung Hung Street. It's a French bakery shop by the name of Anh Hoa.
We bought ourselves some French pastries and enjoyed eating them while we walked towards our destination.
Soon, we reached Dien Bien Phu road. If this name sounds familiar, that's because you may have read about the Battle of Dien Bien Phu - the historical confrontation of the first Indochina War between the French and Viet Minh. More info HERE.
We passed by Cot Co Ha Noi or The Flag Tower of Hanoi, which is part of the Hanoi Citadel, a World Heritage Site.
My friend and I did not visit the Hanoi Citadel and the Flag Tower during this trip, so maybe I will visit it on my next trip!
The Dien Bien Phu road leads to a roundabout and from there we could already see the huge Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum building. In front of the building is the Ba Dinh Square, a huge open space area of historical significance where President Ho Chi Minh read out the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945.
Ba Dinh Square, with its grand Soviet-style architecture seems to contrast sharply with the chaotic Old Quarter where we came from just about 45 minutes ago.
Inside this Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum lies the embalmed body of the President who died in 1969. I had no intention whatsoever to see the body but my friend was interested. Unfortunately for him, we were late and the Mausoleum was closed for the day.
I am not quite sure of the opening hours for visitors as it depends on the time of the year, but I am pretty sure it closes on Mondays and Fridays. On other days, it only opens until 11am. But to be sure, it is better you check the latest opening hours before going there.
I was told that you are not allowed to bring in your cameras and mobile phones, and you have to keep absolutely quiet inside. Also you are not allowed to cross your arms or put your hands in your pocket. That is pretty strict to me and frankly, I was a bit worried for my camera and mobile phone, so maybe that's why I was not really keen on entering the mausoleum.
There were two guards dressed in white uniforms guarding the entrance to the mausoleum.
Did you know that the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was inspired by Lenin's mausoleum in Moscow? Despite that, it was actually ranked the sixth most ugly building in the world by CNN International!
So did we walk all the way (about 3-4 km I think!) to see the sixth ugliest building in the world? Hahaha!
OK, I should not make a joke out of this because I do understand that the local Vietnamese people have the highest respect for their President to the extent that they keep his body in a huge memorial instead of having him buried or cremated. Sometimes I wonder if that's what the President himself really wanted....
Nearby the Mausoleum and Ba Dinh Square is the Presidential Palace. Visitors were not allowed in so my friend and I could only see the yellow-colored French-inspired building from outside its gate.
Did you know that Ho Chi Minh refused to stay inside this grand palace and instead, built a traditional Vietnamese stilt house near it?
The name of the Presidential Palace in Vietnamese language on a huge signboard.
Opposite the Presidential Palace is this building - I am not sure what building it is. Anyone reading this knows?
At the other end of the Ba Dinh Square is the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the famous One Pillar Pagoda which I shall blog about in the next post.
I had to take a picture of this beautiful garden behind the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
The Mausoleum as seen from the side.
Perhaps during my next trip to Hanoi, I will enter the cold room inside this grand mausoleum where the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh lies.
Coming Up Next : Ho Chi Minh Museum & The One Pillar Pagoda