Our second day in Vietnam was like a crash course in Vietnamese history. Our first stop was the Museum of Ethnology, where we learned that there are actually 52 different ethnic groups in Vietnam. The Viet people make up the largest group in the country. One of the most interesting facts that I learned was that the name Viet Nam came from the Chinese, who referred to the Viet people of the South (Nam).
The museum included many replications of different houses that different ethnic groups used through history. We also learned that everyone in our group was at the same maturity level as Mike and I when we saw some fertility statues around one of these houses. Don’t worry – I’ve included a picture below! I think this was the moment when I realized we had a great group of people on this trip!
From the museum, we went to lunch and then walked to a pagoda. The Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi, dating back to the 6th century. It was such a peaceful and serene place to spend some time after our lunch. We also learned a lot about Buddhism at this temple – for instance, when a monk dies, his ashes are held in the pagoda. The tiers of the pagoda represent how high the monk was in the church or how long the monk served the church. The higher the monk’s ashes are in the pagoda, the more “important” the monk was.
Our next stop was the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Full disclosure – I had absolutely no idea Ho Chi Minh was a person until we went to this mausoleum. I had heard the name, but I just never realized he was a person. Needless to say, the whole time we were at the mausoleum and walking the grounds, I was asking millions of questions about him. I now know how important he was to Vietnam and how integral he was in helping Vietnam gain its independence. We were lucky to get to the mausoleum right when the changing of the guards was taking place, so that was really neat to see.
After the mausoleum, we went to the Temple of Literature which had so many amazing photo opportunities. The Temple of Literature was also where Vietnam’s first national university was built in 1070. The temple is also featured on the 100,000 VND bill, which was a fun fact that our guide pointed out. We actually stood at the exact angle that the 100,000 bill shows. This place was so cool and it was so amazing to be walking around these different temples and buildings all dedicated to education, literature, medicine, and just any type of learning in general. Plus, it was just a beautiful place to take pictures!