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On CPG Vegan Trips, we go out of our way to work with the hotels and chefs on special awesome menus for us but also to give our group our own space away from meat-filled buffets. Providing them with recipes and showing what they make that’s already vegan, we’re treated to a feast wherever we go. The Metropole is no exception and even made vegan croissants just for us!
After breakfast, we immersed ourselves in some of Vietnam’s history. True to his nature, Ho Chi Minh did not want pomp and circumstance surrounding his death and wanted his body cremated, but alas it was preserved after his passing in 1969 and is on display for public viewing. Macabre though it may sound, it was quite moving to witness veterans (of what Americans call the Vietnam War and what the Vietnamese call the American War) attend and pay homage, and to see hundreds of school children visit the site.
After viewing Ho Chi Minh’s body, we had our own guide to show us around the square where Ho Chi Minh (known as “Uncle Ho” to his people), first declared independence in 1954.
From there, we visited the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam built in 1076(!) Being an English history enthusiast, it’s amazing to think of what two completely different cultures were doing at the same time — England reeling from the invasion of the Norman conqueror (William) and Vietnam building their first university. We also arranged to have some musicians play music for us in one of the pagodas, which was lovely (short clip below).
Before we visited the Hao Lo prison (nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs), we enjoyed a delicious lunch at KOTO, an organization that gives at-risk and underprivileged youth the opportunity to learn and thrive it their lives. KOTO is a hospitality training center and stands for “know one, teach one.” KOTO has trained over 700 students in their training centers.
At KOTO, I drank my first water sterilized by a steripen. We’ve done so much to not contribute to waste on this trip, but it’s always a challenge in a country whose drinking water isn’t potable, so alas, we have had to use some bottled water. HOWEVER, in addition to a large vat of filtered water we arrange to have on our buses for our travelers to fill their refillable water bottles with, Brighde brought along her steripen and gave me a demonstration. It uses UV rays to sterilize the bacteria in untreated water, and it’s used by backpackers and wilderness trekkers the world over. With a little trepidation, I drank up my glass of water and never had a belly ache. I’m sold.
Our dinner on our first full day was incredible: a vegetarian restaurant called Nha Hang Chay that opened only a few months ago. The entrance is stunning, and each dish we were served was a work of art and equally stunning on the palate. I’m still dreaming of the little clouds of tofu and the hot pot, a Vietnamese staple, especially on chilly nights.
We enjoyed a lovely walk back to our hotel on one of the main streets that is closed to cars and motor bikes on the weekends. For someone who’s not a huge city person — much less one that’s packed with cars, people, and chaos — I have to say I really love this city. I am, however, aware, that I probably wouldn’t say the same thing if we were visiting in the summer months, which are oppressively hot and humid, and we know how I feel about that!