The train pulled in at around 4:30am, leaving us to negotiate with taxi drivers in the rainy dark streets of Hanoi. The doors to our hotel were locked, and our favorite hotel staff were sound asleep on a mattress in front of the door. We couldn’t bear to wake them up after all the help they’d given us over the past few weeks, so we sat on the front steps until the sun rose and they checked us in to a room. After a restless sleep on the train, we were thrilled to shower, relax, and enjoy our favorite breakfast special number 9.
After many failed attempts to see the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, we were quite determined to get in line fifteen minutes before it officially opened. The line was already long, but it moved quickly in an orderly fashion past guards dressed in crisp white uniforms every hundred meters or so. We approached the solemn stone building slowly, and kept silent as we climbed up the stairs to the dimly lit main room. Much like Lenin’s Tomb in Moscow, the deceased communist leader lay motionless in a glass chamber–his body illuminated by white light. Guards watched our every move as we shuffled past the body, some people paying their respects by bowing to him with hands in prayer position. Unlike Lenin, the guards were a bit more relaxed and the room was better lit, which we thought was an indication of the less-aged condition of Ho Chi Minh’s body. We left the monument and walked through the buildings and gardens Ho Chi Minh frequented during his leadership. He was central in the fight against the French for Vietnamese independence, united under communist ideology.
Later on in the day, I started having sharp stomach pains and ended up getting the stomach flu. I stayed curled up in bed in the hotel room for the rest of the day while Byron ran errands and took good care of me.
My fever broke at some point in the night and I was feeling good enough for some bread and jam for breakfast. Today was the big day that our official Vietnamese driver’s licenses would FINALLY be ready…two weeks later. We hadn’t planned on staying in Northern Vietnam for this long, but because we were waiting for the licenses, it forced us to take our time in the area and take trips to Halong Bay and Sapa. At first I had been frustrated by the waiting time, but I’m so thankful looking back because I would have missed out on some very beautiful places had we rushed south.
The Hanoi DMV was a similar experience to the US–take a number, sit in a tiny plastic chair, and wait for a small eternity to go up to the front desk for a matter of minutes. The shiny yellow licenses looked so official with our pictures on them and our information both in English and Vietnamese. I laughed at the thought of using this as identification back home.
I still wasn’t feeling 100%, so I stayed in bed and watched Modern Family and snacked on rice while Byron painted my motorcycle electric blue and jet black.
Now that I’m feeling all better, Byron’s caught the exact same sickness. We took it easy again today, reading and watching shows on the laptop in bed.
I ventured out for lunch by myself at one of the local street restaurants. It was packed with men on their lunch break sipping foamy beers and having loud conversations. I was certain the gentlemen sitting next to me were in a heated yelling match, about to throw punches. However, the next minute they were clinking glasses toasting to each other. I have yet to understand the intricacies of Vietnamese male communication styles.
By the end of the day, Byron was much better and we made plans to leave on our big motorcycle trip the following morning.