|Met our guide today, Hiep, rhymes with jeep. He is 38 years old.
Our first stop was the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. For the first time in our travels, I felt the presence of communism. We had t walk single fle, then we had to stop at a line and then go in a double line until we got to the entrance. No cameras, no talking, no hands n your pocket, walk single file and do not stop. He lies in a sarcophagus in the freezing building. My question is he real or wax? Ironically he wanted to be cremated and ashes spread in the north, central and south areas of the country when it was united. He died in 1969.
According to our guide, Ho was not trusted by the communists. He was only a figure head, as is the President today, per the constitution. Ho traveled to Africa, Europe and the U.S. from 1911-41. He supposedly worked at the Omni Hotel when in the U.S. He was born into the elite 5% of the population.
Our guide explained that Homwas working for Vietnam's independence. He was taking money from the elite 5% of the country. When he didn't have enough support he had to accept help from China and Mao, even though he didn't want too. 2 million people starved to death after the French left. Most of them people from the rural area trying to get to Hanoi. These people included our gude's grandparents.
Once Ho accepted China's help he had to name all the people who gave him money, which lead to their deaths. Because of their anger at him people moved to the south part of the country. These are the people who were removed by the military to the U.S. at the end of the American War as it is known here.
The Boat People of the 80's were the people with money who could afford to buy the boat and everything needed to leave.
We walked the complex where Ho Chi Minh spent his last 15 years (1954-69). Here is located the Presidential Palace used only for an office and meeting with VIPs. He lived in a simple house among the workers for the palace...House Number 54. The last year of his life he lived in the house on stilts.
We passed by the One Pillar Pagoda, Chua, Mot Cot which means long lasting happiness and good luck. This is actually a replica of the original which was destroyed by the French in 1954, the Vietnamese government rebuilt it in 1955. Originally built by Emperor Ly Thai Tong in 1045 as gratitude for the birth of his son. It was designed to look like a lotus flower emerging from the water.
Our final stop was Hao Lo Prison better known as the Hanoi Hilton. It was built by the French in 1896 and used to house Vietnamese prisoners until the French left in 1954. It was said the oly way to escape the prison was to become communists. All kinds of communist unity work was done here. Twice prisoners escaped through the sewers. In 1954 the Vietnamese government used it as a prison for Vietnamese and of course from 1964-73 it was used for American POWs including John McCain. In 1973 all but the southeast section was removed and it is now used as a museum. One side shows the treatment of the Vietnamese prisoners by the French. The other side shows how much better (according to Hiep) the POWs were treated by the Vietnamese. There are photos of the POWs celebrating Christmas, playing sports and games, socializing and smiling. The first word out of my mouth was propaganda. There were photos of the POWs being released and how ell dressed and clean they were and one even said they were being given souvenirs. Hiep then pointed out in a photo of the men in church who looked the same. The top of one man's body was recently photoshopped onto another to hide the fact that the guy was giving the finger to the camera. At the time it was taken the Vietnamese didn't know what it meant.
The Sofitel Hotel is on the sight of a power plant that John McCain was to bomb when he was shot down and captured from one of the 29 lakes in Hanoi. The lakes are a result of 3 rivers that used to flow into Hanoi. Now there is only the Red River and its level is low due to all the damning being done in China.
There are 3 sections to Hanoi: the Old Quarter from the 13th century, the French Quarter where most of the Eastern European embassies are located, and New Hanoi with its high rises.
70% of the population of Vietnamlives in the rural area. Rice is the most important crop.
Annual salary is $1900 per year. But there is a lot of money made under the table. A friend or our guide is a school teacher. Because 2 nights a week sh tutors several students she makes $50,000/ year. Because her clients pay in cash she doesn't pay taxes.
You can see people sitting in front of shops having tea and smoking. They buy the tea and one cigarette for less than a dollar. They are actually sitting around a making bets on the last two numbers of the daily military lottery. The shopkeeper makes 10% off all the bets he/ she takes.
A Toyota Camry costs $52,000. a vesper scooter about $2500 and a motorcycle $800-1500. Tax on automobiles is 160%.
In the 80's it was a very bad time for Vietnam. Very little to eat and wear. Thete was in incentive by the people to produce food. There were vouchers for food and if you didn't get to town in time there would be nothing left and then you would have to use the black market. Hip said he often went with his father and they would leave at 3 am. He feels the only way they were able to survive was because his uncle in the states sent them money. Once the sanctions were lifted Vietnam has grown. Rules are hanging all the time for business and land ownership.
There was no one educated in economics for the country when the war ended. In the past the wars was what kept them going.
The Vietnamese feel if they are doing better they are happy!
As our guide says "one party system. Socialism nothing is free." Education is mandatory for primary school but you must pay. Medical care you must pay.