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January 29, 2004

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The northern region's wintry weather discouraged us from trekking. We returned to Hanoi's parks, lakes, and shaded boulevards.
The Hanoi Hilton, a euphemism for the most famous prison camp during the Vietnam War, partially stands downtown. The rest of the prison has been taken over by a highrise hotel that squashed old cell blocks with its gargantuan foundations. The government converted the prison remains into a museum and propaganda. The propaganda isn't always subtle. A plaque reads: "Though having committed untold crimes on our people, American pilots suffered no revenge once they were captured and detained."
The Vietnamese Terps: statues of turtles in Vietnam's Temple of Literature. Here, scholars founded Vietnam's first university in 1076. The stelae carried by turtles display the names of graduating classes since 1442.
Serving soup with a smile...well, almost a smile.