Hanoi Surprise: Bomber in the Lake

NIGHT MOVES: Joining Hanoi weekend revelers in the heart of the city’s Old Quarter

We’re here, in country. Back in Vietnam after almost 50 years. Starting in Hanoi, I figured would be an easy transition from the World. After all, I have no real stuff about what was formerly North Vietnam. Indeed, the BW and I had a fun first evening exploring the night market, joining the local weekend revelers for street theater around Hoan Kiem Lake in the city’s center, and strolling for a nightcap to the storied Metropole Hotel’s Bamboo Bar.

STREET THEATER: Song and dance team near Hoan Kiem Lake

But I was naive to think I’d make it through Hanoi without a tear at my heart.

For our first morning, our extraordinary tour guide, Giang Nguyen, began our local education with a visit to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.

PICNIC IN THE PARK: Muong Province street food

We picnicked on the grounds with street-food specialties of smoked dried buffalo meat, grilled sausages, and Bahn Khot—deep-fried rice flour cakes stuffed with ground meat and shrimp—from the Muong province of Hoa Binh, a mountainous area northwest of here. Later, we visited “Uncle Ho’s” towering pagoda-style mausoleum and the tranquil site of his stilted summer residence and the bright yellow Presidential Palace. It’s cold and damp and gray here, but we are fascinated by the never ending buzz and ballet of motorbikes and taxis and bustling crowds.

A VISIT TO UNCLE HO: The final resting place

“Han Oi”, by the way, roughly translates to city surrounded by rivers, and comprises several large and small lakes all around the town.  An afternoon mystery walk led us to very unusual one, in a quiet and secluded residential neighborhood in the Ba Dinh District of the city. Amidst this charming square block of modest French-colonial “tube” buildings, we came upon an eerily poignant Vietnam War relic.

PRESIDENTIAL PALACE: Yellow is the color of tranquility and prosperity in Vietnam

Partially submerged in Huu Tiep Lake, is the under carriage and landing gear of a B-52 bomber, shot down over Hanoi during the Christmas Bombings of 1972. It stands in silent sentry, an abstract memorial sculpture in a watery grave.

Seeing it literally took my breath away. I had read about the so-called B-52 Lake, but it never hit my radar for this trip. I won’t recant the history of the Operation Linebacker bombings here at this time.  But  author Peter Alan Lloyd has some dramatic details about this very special and sobering location.

BREATHTAKING VIEW: An eerie war relic in an unassuming Hanoi neighborhood

At that point, I really needed a beer. But I settled for “cà phê đen nóng” (hot black coffee), my first Vietnamese language lesson, courtesy of Giang.

More to come.

 

B-52 WAR RELIC: Fire in the neighborhood lake
VIETNAMESE CAPPUCCINO: Stirring up an egg coffee, with cà phê đen nóng (hot black coffee) nearby.

12 Replies to “Hanoi Surprise: Bomber in the Lake

  1. WOW I HOPE YOU WILL MAKE ONE OF YOUR BOOK ALBUMS. I DON’ KNOW WHAT IS NOT ON THE MARKET, BUT I BET YOU MAKE A MILLION OR TWO WITH A PHOTO BOOK BY THE END OF THE TRIP. GREAT THANKS FOR INCLUDING YOUR SMILING FACES. THEY MAKE ME CRY WTH JOY UNC

  2. Chao ban from the states!
    Vietnamese cappuccino sounds like a protein drink to me & probably more affordable then Starbucks. Great find the B52 in the lake, we stayed at Metropole Hotel, enjoying the revisit of Hanoi vicariously with you. You traveled along way, take it all in. Keep the photos coming, love to Natalie! J&L

  3. You two look like you are having so much fun. Thanks for sharing what year is being celebrated. Interesting to see how open the Vietnamese are after everything they have gone through. B52 cafe?… well we name cafes near our airports after planes as well but I suspect their children have more of a historical connection than kids around here.

  4. 1. So, is the lake now a shrine of sorts, or just a lake with some odd stuff parked out there? Do they still bring tourists to see it, or has its significance faded for today’s Hanoi residents?
    2. Do you notice/feel/encounter any gov’t interference or oversight in your perambulations around town?

  5. I love the photos bringing your trip and well-crafted story to life. I’d still be your publicist anytime. Cheers Fred!!!

  6. Funny! Never thought of Fred as a war relic.

    I agree the pictures add clarity to the descriptive passages. Uncle Anthony is right. You can publish this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.