Hint: It’s not Blaine, Missouri, for those “in the know.” The title is a double inside joke that only a few readers will get. So be it. Nevertheless, you’ll see from the photos, everywhere you look in Hanoi you see people perched on impossibly tiny stools hunched over food, drinks or even games. It’s also a thing in Phnom Penh but I don’t recall it being nearly as ubiquitous as here. If it’s a thing in China it’s not done in Xi’an or Beijing. I didn’t see it anywhere in Europe and it’s certainly not a thing in America. So, I hereby proclaim Hanoi the stool capital of the world with proper acknowledgement to the mockumentary: “Waiting for Guffman.”
It’s Saturday and we are on our way to Halong Bay to take an overnight cruise. It’s about a three hour drive from Hanoi. Yesterday, we toured the Vietnamese Women’s Museum and then to Hỏa Lò , better known by Americans as the Hanoi Hilton although this is one Hilton no one would want to spend the night, let alone the five years and a half years that Senator John McCain spent there.
I’ll spare the readers of this blog my full rhetorical fury about America’s decades long descent (it really did begin in 1954) into the quagmire known as “The Vietnam War” but I did live through the Vietnam war era and have been a keen observer of American foreign policy for many decades so I will say this much: For years after the end of American involvement in the war (1973) the prevailing wisdom was that America had learned its lesson about the folly of such adventurism. Then, in the 90’s the national discourse among the political elite and commentariat was the need to shake off the zeitgeist of Vietnam and resume our “proper” role as the “world’s policeman.” Hence: The first Gulf War, the intervention in the Balkan wars, Somalia, Gulf War 2, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and next up, Bananastan just as soon as we can find it on the map. Oh wait. We ARE Bananastan. Never mind!
We just never seem to learn from history, do we? In Bartlett’s Quotations next to Santayana’s famous advice is a picture of the American flag. As the chorus from the famous anti-war folk song from the 60’s balefully drones: “when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”
I’ll save the rest of my commentary (more properly, “rants”) for the photos posted below in case you aren’t interested in my perspective but still want to see the photos.
Addendum: It’s actually Sunday night that this will get posted. We’re back in Hanoi after spending the night in Halong Bay. Updating what I wrote above changes the “flavor” so I prefer to add this addendum. The wifi reception on the boat was barely working so I missed a day of updating. Tomorrow after we fly to Phu Quoc, I’ll post the photos from our time at Halong Bay. That is, if my arms aren’t too tired to type, from all the flying! (“groan!”)