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Published: April 11th 2009
Tuesday 7th April
Hanoi is an hour behind Singapore, something we didn’t twig onto for a while, so we expected our transfer to be gone. Ended up correct though and the rep from the Astoria Hotel was there to meet us. Not greet us, as he didn’t speak a word to us, just beckoned. After the precision of Singapore the driving here is to be seen to be believed. The horn is the most essential part of vehicles and is sounded constantly. Everyone seems to know where they are going, they all keep moving and the lines of traffic just blend together. After being here for nearly 24 hours we haven’t heard a squeal of brakes or seen any accidents.
As pedestrians you must keep moving slowly,the traffic goes around you. If you pause or hesitate you’re lost!! Bit nerve wracking but that’s part of being here.
The hotel didn’t seem to be expecting us (even though we’ve had several emails confirming) but after showing a copy of the email we were told to take a seat whilst they prepared the best room in the house. We found it was a large, clean room with a small bathroom,
own computer, TV etc and for US$31/night including free internet and breakfast it seems good value.
Wednesday 8th April
We both had a good night’s sleep and went down to breakfast at 0730. Breakfast consisted of a couple of fried eggs garnished with slices of tomato & cucumber. This was accompanied by a huge french type bread bun. Rags ate this twice as he ate Judy’s serve as well. she’d brought her own cereal but the best she could manage to go with it was some hot water! This was followed by fruit and a sickly sweet white coffee. The next coffee was better after Rags explained he didn’t want milk & sugar.
The Old Quarter was the destination for the day, we following a walk we found on the Frommers website. Very interesting, with the thrill of dodging through the traffic adding to the excitement. Lunch was at the Bay Restaurant, one we found passing by. After the meal the owner came out and started talking to us. He looked very Vietnamese but told us he was a Kiwi, having been born and brought up in New Zealand. He came to Hanoi to start his business,
aiming at the tourist trade.
More window shopping followed, Rags finally succumbing and buying 3 polo shirts! Back to the hotel, a rest, starting the blog for this trip, and after a pre-dinner scotch & coke, went to Quan An Ngon, a Vietnamese restaurant recommended by Bob, the owner of the hotel. We found this to be a very busy place where there were several cooking areas which specialised in certain dishes. Waiters looked after several tables, taking orders to & from the different areas to the customers. Our waiter wasn’t very helpful or efficient, our dishes being served haphazardly and finally needing a reminder for the last dish. So far we have found Vietnamese food to be rather bland, hopefully this is to cater for the tourists and will become better as we move away from Hanoi.
Thursday 9th April
The Ho Chi Minh complex as our destination for the morning. Since someone suggested it was 7 km away we caught taxi but it wasn’t so far and we ended up walking back. This was all very formal, with Judy forced to buy a shawl to cover her arms and strict rules applying - no photography
inside, silence and no folded arms or hands in pockets etc whilst filing past the embalmed body of this man who had really only wanted a simple cremation.
Near here we also visited the One Pillar Pagoda built in 1049 and the impressive Ho Chi Minh museum with its elaborate displays.
Lunch in a little local restaurant followed our return to the Old Quarter. This was excellent and more like what we were expecting.
The rest of the afternoon was spent arranging for some business cards to be made, looking through the day markets which turned out to be a huge complex selling almost everything but aimed at retailers.
After withdrawing some more cash from the ANZ branch next to Hoan Kiem Lake we continued walking all the way around it. This was quite a pleasant walk, mixing with tourists and locals but was spoilt by the attitude of the attendants at 2 of the public toilets. The first more or less told us to go away, the next about 500m further on refused to accept the money Judy offered as the note was damaged. She expressed her feelings in no uncertain way and we made our
Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum
We actually saw his embalmed body here. He goes off to Russia once a year for "maintenance".
way back to the hotel a little more briskly than usual!
The evening was spent quietly in the room, Rags going out and picking up a pizza from a nearby outlet. Here he saw an interesting idea, a pizza with the base made into a cone so that it could be eaten whilst on the move. We had a conventional round one.
Friday 10th April
During the morning Judy had come up with a design for the image on our business card so first stop was the printer. They were very helpful and an hour later we left, pleased with our efforts. The cards will be ready when we return from the ride.
Another walk through the Dong Xuan Markets followed, we taking in the atmosphere and watching the buyers and sellers.
By now we had gained confidence in the traffic and hired a cyclo to take us to the Opera House, about 2 kms away. This was nowhere near as scary as expected although Rags wouldn’t recommend it for anyone with a heart condition! At one stage the driver proceeded directly through a red light and a solid wall of cars and scooters
One Pillar Pagoda
In the same complex as the Ho Chi Minh Palace and Mausoleum.
came toward us. The Opera house was closed for lunch, but that didn’t concern us too much, our goal was the Army Hotel which is nearby. How close we didn’t realise at the time, we walked for some way before retracing our steps and asking a local. The hotel looks ok from the outside and has local eating stalls across the road from it, from one we bought a similar noodle meal we had the other day.
We found we had again made the mistake of not having something specific to do on the last day, therefore having to kill time before our train trip to Sapa this evening. We wandered through the French Quarter looking at the old buildings and generally doing little. Judy found a hairdresser she felt comfortable entering, and even though there was a language barrier she bravely continued. (“it will grow again”) Rags had a cup of coffee in the shop next door. Both of us were pleased with the result when she emerged about an hour later - a blonde vietnamese
This inspired her even more, off to a nail shop for a manicure and some nail art work whilst Rags had
a couple of bia hoi.
After a dinner in a cafe attached to a hotel we made our way back to the Astoria Hotel to pickup our bags and walk to the railway station. This only took about 20 mins as we had checked out where it was earlier this afternoon.
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