After I'd taken in the Temple of Literature, I walked north through the giant Ho Chi Minh Masoleum area, which was nearly deserted due to the rain. As usual, two white uniformed guards were standing in front of the door to Ho's tomb, which was closed, so I'll have to see his body another day. So I continued walking toward West Lake, through broad avenues lined with tall trees and yellow government buildings.
I came to the edge of West Lake and at a non-touristy burger joint. My burger, fries and coke set me back just two dollars. The food descriptions were in Vietnamese, but I was able to point to what I wanted. I noticed that the title of the burger combo contained the word "My" in it, which as of Wednesday, I know means "American". Nevertheless, it was radically different from any American burger--there were cucumbers and the meat was a sort of spicy beef paste. It wasn't bad at all, but you won't find it at Burger King.
I walked out along the causeway that divides West Lake. It was a very calm, peaceful part of the city, but visually not very spectacular, espcially not with all the threatening rainclouds and puddles.
At the end of the causeway, I came into quiet, non-touristy residential neighborhoods surrounding a corner of the lake that squeezes into a dirty canal. Despite the filthy water, I saw entire schools of fish leap out into the air and several men were fishing with homemade bambo poles.
In the middle of a residential neighborhood I noticed a sidewalk shrine that peaked my curiosity. There was a plack with hundreds of names and dates about twenty years appart. The second row of dates ranged from 1946 to 1976 and included every year in between. I'm pretty sure that this is a memorial to local boys who were killed in Vietnam's various wars.
I came out of the dense residential neighborhood and to the edge of long yellow walled complex. At the start of it, there was an old wall tower. On its wall, a marble French sign commemorated some military even that happened in 1882, probably describing French capture of Hanoi around that time.
View across from the tower
On the right side of the road, the wall opened up into a fence protecting relics of Vietnam's wars. There were Russian tanks used in Cambodia and artillery captured from the French. And fifth in the row, there were torpedo shafts used to attack the Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. The sign said, "Used by Battalion 135, Regiment 172 of the Navy to chase the American destroyer Maddox out of Vietnam's Territorial Waters on August 2, 1964." I was wary of taking pictures, but this was really special. I looked around and there were no soldiers in sight so I snapped one.
After that unexpected find, I ended up by the War Museum and had an easy walk back through commercial streets to the narrow touristy streets of my hotel. I was just in time, because as soon as I got to my room it started raining so hard that I got alarmed. Even with a poncho it would have been miserable to be caught in that. Of course I know that that will happen many times this month.