The Roosters of Hanoi

April 23, 2010 Vietnam by Steve Martin Edit

It's 5AM in a city of almost 7 million people and I can hear a rooster crowing to the rising sun. Not just one rooster, but several.We are in the centre of Hanoi and even here the locals have livestock.


Hanoi is a very different city to Saigon. It's cleaner for a start. The pavements are not all broken up and the buildings are cleaner and newer. It's a modern asian city.

On our first day here James and I escaped. I needed to hit the pavements and James just needed to get out out into some space. He's easy to read sometimes. Keep him couped up for too long and his behaviour changes. He becomes a frustrated and contrary little boy. Give him space to run and room to move and he is easy to deal with.

On the way in from the airport we were reminded once again just who controls Vietnam. Along the avenue that leads to Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum the hammer and sickle burned brightly in neon over the road.

My plan for the escape was to go back and see Ho Chi Minh's last resting place in daylight. I've mentioned before that he is everywhere. He is referred to as Uncle Ho by many and he is just part of the consciousness.

The Mausoleum is not far. It's only about ten blocks and the sight is fantastic. It is huge, the square and forecourt makes it seem even larger, and the seriousness of the guards is more than a little imposing. The building is modeled on Lenin's tomb, and a statue of the Russian Leader is just down the road a bit.

We stood there in the midday sun and made our decision..... we decided to stop for a picnic.

If you think about it it's not that strange. People have lunch with Jim Morrison of The Doors, and I'm sure John Lennon has hosted a few parties in his time in the earth. So what's wrong with having a simple picnic of banana's, crackers and water with Uncle Ho?

This mausoleum is not what Ho Chi Minh wanted. He wished to be cremated and scattered across the countryside. Instead he lies in state, viewed by silent lines of the curious and the devoted. The Mausoleum is closed at the moment, most likely to fix him up a bit for the publics inquisitive eye.

Hanoi is also an experience in frustration. While we planned to spend four days here, we are now stuck. The volcano that erupted in Iceland over a week ago has stopped us in our tracks.

Our flights to London from Hong Kong are cancelled, and we can't afford to fly onto HK because we are hearing reports that hotels are charging up to 1000 dollars a night for the few scarce hotel rooms not already taken.

We have come to a stop.... a dead stop..... only 10 days into a 9 month trip.

To add to the frustration we can't really get out and about into the surrounding countryside. Because Emily is only 18 months old she is too young to have injections for typhoid and Hep A. We also planned to stick to the tourist trail for our 10 days so we are not taking anti-malaria tablets. We are stuck.

The airlines have us booked to leave on the 12th of May. We've managed to get on a waiting list for the 29th of April, but I have only moderate hope that we'll get seats. 

We can't go too far from Hanoi in case we get seats at the last minute. We have booked a few days at Hao Long Bay to get out of the city, but we have to be back for the 29th, just in case.

I hope Hao Long Bay resets our spirits.... we need something too lift us again because those roosters at 5AM are wearing a bit thin.