We had a bit of a lay in today, maybe the drinks had affected us a bit more than we thought they had last night! Once we were up though we got in touch with the city’s International Hospital to see if they would be able to remove the stitches from Liz’s back from the operation she had previously had at the hospital in Vigan, Philippines. It transpired that they were able to fit her in this very morning but it would mean quite a trek across the city.
Finding the address for the International Hospital seemed straight forward enough but when we got there it was a lot more difficult to locate. There were a lot of embassies on the same section of avenue and these are hardly the best places to ask for directions so we had to walk up and down quite a few times before stumbling across the hospital more by luck than judgement. The hospital was very swish indeed but all Liz needed was the stitches removing and the wound cleaning up after, so we were hoping this would be a reasonably quick and easy thing to do. We did have a bit of a wait but as they say money talks and before long Liz was being examined. The doctor seemed very pleased with her progress and to be fair when I looked at the scar it all looked very clean cut. Once finished we had to pay the piper and, to be fair, this was much cheaper than we had originally expected. Even taking the initial operation into account it was still not worth claiming against the insurance for Liz’s back so it was not only all looking good but it was not going to cost an arm and a leg either.
We next went to Vietcom, this is Hanoi’s main shopping mall and as such it is very swish looking, with prices to match, but is by no means a very big mall. All the city’s people who want to be seen seem to go there so I suppose they were quite surprised by the likes of us turning up. We grabbed a bite to eat at one of the cafes there which was quite reasonably priced and went looking for the cinema as we were thinking of taking in a film but this was easier said than done, so for today we left it and instead went for a walk.
The first place on this very hot day we visited was Lenin Park which was only a short distance from the shopping mall. In the park, music was being blasted out through the speakers. This was Vietnamese music so quite an acquired taste but we were there to have a stroll about, however rather than go round the lake we merely sat besides it and had ourselves an ice cream an even better way to spend the day! Again some of the statues within the park were quite communist in their look but they are not entirely without their own charm. Also the pond within the park was very nice and although quite dry the whole park was quite nice for a stroll.
As with the rest of the day so far, it was quite a hot walk to our next attraction – the Hanoi Hilton (Hoa Lo) which was the prison. It is not all in tact but the part that is has been renovated is really good to walk around. Do not get me wrong it is very Vietnamese biased but that makes it all the more interesting for us as we normally visit things presented with a more Westernised bias. The ‘Hilton’ had held some American pilots, most notably a much younger Senator John McCain and his flight suit was still on view. The place shows the conditions to have been quite humane towards the prisoners which is not the way the Americans tell the same story so who knows.
After the prison next the church or rather the Cathedral – Saint Joseph’s which, like the cinema earlier turned out to be quite a challenge to find, could the weak point here be ourselves I wonder? The cathedral is oldish and looks well used inside rather than touristy but was an oasis of cool after the heat of the streets and from here it was quite a walk back to our hotel which just about finished us off. So for tea we did not go far at all to the upstairs of a nearby cafe whose food was really cheap but the place was packed out with locals, so as you can imagine it was really tasty as well. We were nearly rained off though as the heavens opened so much that they had to pull covers over the front of the cafe and even then rain was pouring in through the cracks. Even in this torrential rain the traffic (mopeds), though soaked, moved about with the same amount of careless abandon as they had at all other times.
Our vantage point of the cafe was at a busy intersection and watching mopeds simply flying over it through the blinding rain was like watching an accident waiting to happen – it didn’t though and I am sure this was more down to luck than judgement by the moped riders. Watching the night’s events had frazzled our nerves somewhat so after eating we went for a couple of beers and watched a bit of footy. The Vietnam national team were playing and losing to Thailand but the locals seemed not too surprised by this so our drinks were drunk in relative peace and calm.