Name: Cocktails & Dreams
Address: 25 Ngo Huyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Direction: behind Nha Tho Lon (the church), 10 minutes from Old Quarter
Restaurant type: Bar
Price range: reasonable
Description : friendly and charismatic staff with excellent bartending skill. Incredible cocktails with very cheap price “Friendly staff, great drinks and great price”.
The most sacred shrine in all of Vietnam contains not a single Buddha, incense stick or offering. It is the ugliest shrine in the country. In fact, it doesn’t look remotely Vietnamese.
I refer, of course, to the hulking mausoleum that contains the earthly remains of Ho Chi Minh. Here is where every schoolchild, war veteran and patriot comes to pay hushed respects to the father of their country, now splendidly embalmed under glass.
Ho himself would certainly have loathed this fate. He was a man of simple tastes, and wished to be cremated. “Not only is cremation good from the point of view of hygiene but also it saves farmland,” he wrote.
Still, the old guy looks pretty good for someone who’s 118. He looks wise and kind – just the way he does in his portraits, which hang in a place of honour in every North Vietnamese home. Uncle Ho, they call him fondly.
But if the man who united this country 33 years ago is more beloved than ever, to the younger generation, the wars he fought are ancient history. “We don’t care about history or politics – just about being Western,” says Nguyen Huu Duc, who is 26.
Duc is our guide to Vietnam, both the old and the new. He has spiky hair and doesn’t get along with his father (“too old-fashioned”). He and his friends admire America – its personal freedoms, its technology, its cheekiness and material success. They devour its pirated movies and its counterfeit name brands. They speak the universal language of consumerism. Their little sisters wear Barbie Fashion backpacks. In one home where we had tea, the customary portrait of Uncle Ho faced off against an enormous Disney poster, featuring Mickey and Minnie.
And the kids aren’t alone. Outside Ho’s mausoleum, we chatted with an old war vet who was blind in one eye. He’s only a cyclo driver now, but when he puts on his medals and uniform he gets respect. He lost the eye when the Americans bombed his supply convoy on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. “How do you feel about the Americans now?” I asked him. “I have no quarrel with them,” he said. Even to the fighters, the war is ancient history.