Eastern Medicine

Another cool activity on the trip was visiting a doctor of Eastern Medicine (also known as “Chinese Medicine” or “Oriental Medicine”).

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She demonstrated a few techniques on her assistant, including cupping. Notice the flaming wick in the doctor’s left hand (it looks kind of like a burning marshmallow). She briefly holds the flame under a bamboo cup (glass can also be used) before placing the cup on the patient’s back. The heated air creates a vacuum that then sucks the bad blood to the surface of the body.

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The students were not that interested in trying cupping, but they did avail themselves of other treatments. Here the doctor applies a liquid that heats the skin. The doctor said this treatment is comparable to acupuncture.

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Kelly tried the same stuff to see if it would help with migraines.

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A tray with the doctor’s materials.

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Liz and Jessica tried moxibustion to help their colds. The doctor waved this smoldering stick above back and forth over their neck. It had a pleasant herbal aroma. Jessica and Liz said it was warm but not uncomfortable. And I can’t say for sure, but they did seem to be a little bit healthier the next day.

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Ho Chi Minh Museum

No trip to Hanoi would be complete without a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and the nearby Ho Chi Minh Museum. Photos are strictly prohibited in the mausoleum itself. In fact, the security to get into the mausoleum is comparable to Tan Son Nhat Airport–you have to put your bags through an x-ray machine and walk through a metal detector before you can enter the building.

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After the mausoleum we headed over to the stilt house, which is where Ho Chi Minh lived while president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). The story is that he refused to live in the former Governor General’s residence, which is right next door, because it was too opulent.

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Guiding us through the Ho Chi Minh museum was Professor Le Van Lan. We found out that he is also well-known in Hanoi as the host of a televised game show. Sure enough, as we were checking out the museum we noticed some people staring at him and taking pictures. (Nice photo bomb, Ahmed.)

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The entry to the museum has a huge statue of Ho Chi Minh. He is, literally, placed on a pedestal.

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Liz has the Ho Chi Minh wave down pat. I think she has a future in politics.

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Hanoi Food

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This guy was making me a doner kebab sandwich. Pretty good–some kind of roasted pork, cabbage, and a tangy white dressing. Then they toast it on a little panini press/George Foreman grill.

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One of my favorite foods in Vietnam is the Hanoi specialty bun cha. It’s kind of like a disassembled bun thit nuong. You get a bowl of sauce (I think it has a fish sauce base, but it is pretty mild) with sliced papaya and grilled meat inside. The meat is great–they usually cook it over coals, using a fan to really ramp up the heat. Some pieces are kind of like sausage patties while others are like pork belly. They give you a plate full of bun (thin rice noodles) and some greens (lettuce, basil, purple basil, mint), which you add to the bowl of meat and sauce. It is often served with nem, the Hanoi version of spring rolls (cha gio in the south).

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Some Hanoi coffee. Notice how it clings to the side of the mug. And I like that they serve it in a hot water bath to keep it warm.

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I took this picture as we were walking by. I think it is goose, but I’m not positive. Oh, and there was also a place nearby serving dog. I took a picture there too, but out of respect for dog lovers (and anyone who might be a little squeamish) I’ll only post a link to the photo. It is a little grisly, so consider yourself warned.

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More Hanoi Sights

More photos from our week in Hanoi:

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Here is Liz buying her favorite food–banh mi. She probably broke the record for most “banh mi khong” (just the bread, not the sandwich) eaten in a week. She was also a big fan of the “Laughing Cow” cheese as an accompaniment.

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In addition to the traditional banh mi, you can also get doner kebab sandwiches in Hanoi (I haven’t noticed them in Ho Chi Minh City for some reason).

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Traffic from our taxi cab.

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Did I mention that it was cold? More pictures of people building fires in the streets.

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I came across these two guys while I was warming up near the fire. They looked about the same age as my two boys, so I asked them if I could snap a photo and they obliged.

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The Temple of Literature

Although it wasn’t part of the official program, a few of us took a short trip to the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu in Vietnamese). Just to give a sense of Vietnam’s long history, Van Mieu was founded about 1000 years ago–around the time that Hanoi became the capital.

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Hanoi sights

After about a week in the south we flew up to Hanoi for the second half of our trip. One of the first things I noticed was the temperature. It was probably about 50 degrees and damp when we arrived. Lots of people had built fires on the streets for a little extra warmth!

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The temp may not sound too bad by New Hampshire standards, but one problem is that very few buildings in Hanoi are heated. You’ll notice that people are wearing coats, scarves, and hats in most of these pictures–even when they are taken inside!

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We visited the Women’s Museum on our first day in Hanoi. Here the tour guide describes Vietnamese wedding customs.

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The museum is decorated with painted non, the Vietnamese conical hat.

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We visited a local NGO that was working on “greening” Hanoi. They have programs to educate children about environmentalism, encourage organic farming, and cut down on the amount of waste produced by local residents.

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We also visited the Joint POW/MIA office. The office works with the Vietnamese government to identify sites that may contain the remains of American military personnel. The office then sends out a team to excavate the site in the hopes of finding enough material to make a DNA match based on military records.

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Heading home

In about an hour we’ll hop a bus to the airport. I don’t want to think about the 30 hour voyage that lies ahead, so instead I’ll post a picture of the students from our recent trip to Halong Bay. Sometime after we get home I’ll try to post pictures from the rest of our stay in the north.

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In Ho Chi Minh City we sang karaoke with our Vietnamese roommates. As we were getting ready to leave I picked this for our last song. I thought it would be a hit with the St. A’s kids; little did I know that the Vietnamese students were also big fans!

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More from the market in Vinh Long

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Bowls upon bowls of rice.

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Our guide was Thu, a Vinh Long native. She was very funny and quite forthright. We came across a stall selling snakes but no one was standing nearby. She went right up, opened the case, and pulled out a snake to show us.

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The squid here is delicious–one of my favorite things to eat in Vietnam.

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Market in Vinh Long

We walked through a market in Vinh Long. All of the local wares were on display.

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Rambutan. What an odd looking fruit. They are delicious–very sweet and juicy.

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Walking past the stalls.

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More fruit. Rambutan on the bottom row. In the middle row there are tamarind closest to the camera, then some purple fruit (not sure what), then water apple, maybe kumquats, something else, and longan in the back. The next row has dragon fruit, mongkut, something else (maybe soursop?), mangoes, and then durian.

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Closeup of dragon fruit.

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Flowers at the market.

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