In our last two full days in Hanoi, we were both just a tiny bit knackered but felt that we had to do some stuff and not only waste our time. One day, we basically just walked around trying different restaurants our student guides had recommended to us and seeing sights as we passed by them, including St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The second day we had the option of visiting the Vietnamese women’s museum and the infamous war-time prison dubbed “Hanoi Hilton” by American soldiers. Elly rightly pointed out that we had seen many things related to war and misery already (Toul Sleng, War remnants museum and Reunification Palace) and it might be nice to see something different instead. I agreed so we decided to visit the women’s museum.
But back to the first day where we were just walking around exploring Hanoi. We eventually decided that we should at least try to pass by the cathedral so that we would get to see something. We had some plans to perhaps visiting the temple by the lake in central old town as well, but when we got there we were both tired and it was a huge line full of people, so we just couldn’t be bothered. Instead, we stopped by a statue of Lý Thái Tổ and watched some Vietnamese skaters learning tricks for half an hour. After that we went to the cathedral, you need to be modestly dressed but you can borrow things to cover up your sinful parts (shoulders, legs above the knee and so on) for free. The cathedral was a nice distraction for half an hour and as usual, a nice place to rest and relax your mind from the hectic cacophony of noises smells and sounds outside in the big city. That’s basically everything of substance we did that day.
The next day we had a little bit of a walk to the women’s museum. Personally, I was still undecided about whether to go there or to “Hanoi Hilton” but Elly had made a good point about all our other museum and sights visits (all war and misery), and sometimes it’s good having someone else decide for you when you are a little bit on the fence. Sometimes being forced to make a choice can really throw me off balance and basically just bluescreen my mind. People that know me are acutely aware of this, even something simple like deciding which flavours of ice cream to buy and eat can sometimes stop me in my tracks. The key word here is sometimes, it usually happens when I’m tired or otherways distracted with other thoughts. So we ended up going to the women’s museum. It turned out to be a pretty interesting museum cataloguing the lives of women in Vietnam. There were different sections focusing on things like the everyday lives of women and activities in rural communities, marriage, childbirth, the role of Vietnamese women in history, women’s fashion and so on. What the museum did very well was to illustrate the differences between the lives of women in the many ethnic groups that Vietnam has. It turns out that it can be very different, I didn’t know that Vietnam had so many matrilineal tribes for instance. The fashion section was also more focused on how the traditional dress of Vietnamese women had developed through history rather than focusing on modern fashion.
We also did the museum with audio guides which I would recommend. It’s basically almost double the price, but it’s very cheap to start with so I didn’t mind at all. I’m in a weird place when it comes to evaluating museum prices because in Sweden where I come from there are privately run museums and public ones. The public ones are ridiculously cheap. For instance, in Gothenburg, my home town you can buy a combination ticket for the city museum, maritime museum, art museum, natural history museum and design museum for 4 euros, which grants you a free entrance to all the museums for a full year. And then you have the privately run Universeum; a big indoor terrarium/aquarium and science centre, which is something like 25 euros per entrance (still worth it if you’ve never been there before). So when something like the Cambodian royal palace is 10 dollars, I simultaneously think that it’s quite cheap and expensive. Anyway, I think we paid something like 6 euros per person including an audio guide which is very reasonable in my opinion. But, I’m a bit of a completionist when it comes to audio guides, so I ended up not being able to see the whole museum despite us arriving 2 hours before closing time. But that’s on me and not the museum, which I would recommend if you are interested in women’s lives and history in Vietnam. Besides going to the museum we basically just strolled around in Hanoi and ate good food which certainly wasn’t the most productive we’ve been, but I can also think of way worse things to do with