Saturday, 2 April 2011

A cold, a dead guy and a train

Saturday 2nd April 2011

MP3 track of the day: Monster -The Automatic

Weather: Hot and cloudy.


Yet again I found myself up at the crack of dawn. My cold seemed to have gotten worse throughout the night however, once showered and dressed, I felt a little more human. I was back on the 'bread with butter' for breakfast however I ordered another hot chocolate. My plan for the day was to, yet again, head to 'Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum'. However, unlike the last time, I decided to have a long hard look at my map before setting off.

It was all going so well; I was walking in the correct direction, according to my map, until a road that I needed didn't exist … only a wall. I had no option, I had to head south. This time I decided to get my map out and make sure that, with this change in direction, I didn't get lost. Once past the military museum I could head north again and soon I found myself near Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum. Just like two days ago, the Vietnamese police and armed forces were everywhere. Unlike two days ago the queue had been moved. For the next fifteen minutes I found myself following many blue signs, with arrows, until I reached the end of the queue.

Being a weekend the queue moved quite quickly. This can easily be explained due to the lack of school visits. I couldn't take my bottle of water with me and so, after a long gulp, I threw it in the bin. With no camera I breezed through security and I soon found myself at the entrance gate to the mausoleum. My guidebook had stated that a 'saddened look was advisable to please the many guards'. With my head bowed low, and my chin almost on the floor, I made my way into the mausoleum. It's weird but the harder I tried to look sad the more I wanted to laugh.

As I followed the slow procession of people, up a set of marble steps, I looked at the guards. They weren't as professional as British guards, their eyes moved constantly. Eventually I could see a room in front of me with a glass box in the middle. Just before going in a ladies phone, behind me, started to ring … she was shot.

You weren't allowed to stop within the mausoleum. Instead you had to walk continually around the glass rectangle box – with a guard at each corner – until you exited out of the door on the opposite side. I wasn't sure what I was expecting but what I saw did startle me. I was amazed at how well the body had been preserved; skin, hair everything was perfectly normal. As I shall be visiting China (and I would like to visit Russia at some point) I need to get used to this 'eternal tombing'.

I was glad to leave the mausoleum; not only was the experience a little weird but the guards became more relaxed the further I got away from the tomb. As I walked I thought to myself. When you die it seems you have three choices:

· Burial

· Cremation

· Eternal tombing

I decided there and then that I want it noting. I do not want to be eternally tombed. I thought I would head back to the hostel however, as I continued along a path lined with guards, I saw a sign indicating the entrance to 'Ho Chi Minh's house'. Now I'd found it I decided to go in. 15,000 dong later and I found myself wishing that I had my camera with me. The grounds were lovely with a wooded lake as the main feature. The new 'palace' could be seen in the distance; a huge golden building standing within perfectly kept grounds. I followed the procession to Ho Chi Minh's house. The house was exactly as I expected a famous communist leaders house to look like. Made out of wood, and consisting of two rooms, the house felt very 'peasantry' with a hint of luxury. The wood seemed pretty new and so I questioned the authenticity.

Once through the crowds, and away from the house, I moved as quickly as I could to get away from the thousands of people and the hundreds of guards. I was heading towards Hanoi's train station and so, given my current predicament of trying to enter China, I decided to go in and ask a few questions. It took just one question to realise that I was in the wrong train station and so I left, went around the block, and entered Hanoi's main train station. Once in there I met a lovely lady who spoke perfect English (she should become a tour guide). She said that no train to Kumming, or Hong Kong, leaves from Hanoi however there is a direct train to Nanning. I inquired into this service and it seems that it departs everyday at 9:40pm, arriving in Nanning at 10am the following day. What's more it's a direct service; the train stops, as it's passengers pass through immigration, and then continues. The final plus was that it only costs 750,000 (about £25) for a soft sleeper. The only negative was that the train didn't leave from this station either; there was another station, just out of town, that the train departs from. Not really knowing where Nanning was I thanked the lady and returned to my hostel, though not before having a hot chocolate and a lovely slice of cake in a restaurant.

I spent the rest of the day surfing the web. I blogged, uploaded photos, read the news and searched for flights. Even flying from Hanoi to a major South East Asian airport (Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur) and then into Hong Kong it was going to cost a lot more than the train. As the night wore on the train sounded more and more appealing. I got my Chinese guidebook out and located Nanning; which is just across the boarder from Vietnam, near Hong Kong. My current plan for China seems to have altered; I'm going to try to get to Nanning for the 6th April and stay there three nights. I shall then move onto Hong Kong before getting to Shanghai for the F1. After that I can slow down abit and head to Leshan, before heading back down south to Kumming and then back tracking up to X'ian.

With that sorted (well kind of) I looked at the date. As I was booked into this hostel until the 3rd April (and I would have to catch the train on the 5th April) I decided that I didn't have enough time to make a trip up to 'Sa Pa' worthwhile. Instead I decided to stay here, in Hanoi, and watch a load of films (and eat cake … and souvenir shop) for the two days. I've been racing through Vietnam and so a bit of a break is most welcome.

None of the above is booked, that I shall do tomorrow. For now I'm going to have something to eat, chill in the common room and have an early night to finish off my cold. Tomorrow I need to get some more cash before sorting out the next leg of my trip.

Toodle Pip!

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