We’ve spent much of the past three days exploring Hanoi and seeing its sights. I don’t really want to detail all the museums we’ve gone to, but I’ll offer a few thoughts. Although today’s Fine Art Museum was pretty good in Joylani’s opinion and the Military History Museum had a lot of interesting war relics, most museums in Vietnam are pretty worthless. Although the presentation is okay, very few museums have anything in English. More importantly though, the museums are all fronts for propaganda. Most of the museums I’ve seen in Vietnam would have you think Ho Chi Minh and the other founding fathers were gods- perfect, no faults, pure altruistic motives in everything they did. Every nation deifies its national heroes to an extent, but the museums in Vietnam have no objectivity and take uncritical looks at its past. We’ve seen so many revolution and independence museums that are just gallery after gallery of propaganda. Although also full of communist propaganda, visiting Hoa Lo prison was interesting just to see John McCain’s flight suit and where he stayed, especially given the current presidential race. The prison is now at the foot of a towering western hotel on a busy commercial street selling electronics. I’ve vowed not to go to any more museums here though, because they’re mostly in Vietnamese and the ones that do have English have zero historical information. One of the most interesting things we’ve seen in Hanoi was Ho Chi Minh’s body. It’s in a guarded glass case in a huge classical looking mausoleum. Its quite the tourist attraction with a continual stream of visitors walking single file passed it, while guards look on. Kind of weird when you think about it, but interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing Mao and Lenin’s bodies now too, though. Besides the museums, we’ve spent a lot of time eating, talking, writing in cafes, and trying to get this blog up-to-date. Hanoi in a nutshell: good art, bad museums, good food, and hot!
Hoa Lo prison
McCain’s flight suit on display