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Vietnam Trip.

Heading to Saigon shortly.

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Congratulations you found my Vietnam trip blog. Travel dates are February 12 through March 5. Flying into Saigon and out of Hanoi.  Stay tuned for more.

02/12/17 Sunday

This is my Tortuga 45L travel pack.  It has so many pockets I’m not sure I found them all.  At 26 pounds I’m traveling a little bit heavy but at least I’m all in one bag.  I’m headed from Seattle to Seoul Korea and then to Saigon today.  http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/products/outbreaker-travel-backpack

Leaving Halong bay, to Hanoi and then to South Korea

Well today, or was it yesterday ended up being really long.  Some how the boat company turns the 135km drive back to Hanoi into a 5 hour epic journey.  We had to stop for a water puppet show, which was amusing, but then another stop while the driver picked that moment to wash the van.  When you are averaging about 10mph, it sure takes along time to get anywhere.  At some point, around 5:00pm I got dropped at the fancy Sofitel Metropole, where I checked my bag with the bellman and went off for a walk.  Then had dinner at El Gaucho, Hanoi.  Sometimes a burger is just what’s needed.  Eventually a cab ride to the airport, about 45minutes/$18.   Then, Jin Air, a cheapo Korean code share with Korean Air.  Nice people, but I really could barely fit into the seat, and my knees were smashed into the seat ahead of me.  Good thing only 4 hours.  Now sitting in a lounge at Incheon airport at 8:00am and my continuing flight isn’t until 6:25pm tonight.  Luckily they have an in terminal transit hotel that doesn’t require dealing with immigration etc.  Headed there next.

Headed back to Port, then to Hanoi.

Currently on the boat headed back to the harbor to transfer for the 4 hr. Van ride back to Hanoi. From there I’ll head to the airport for a 5 hour flight to ICN in South Korea. After a 12 hour layover it’ll be about 10 hours back to Seattle. Have some nice pix of Halong bay/Ba Tui Bay, but they will have to wait for a good wifi signal.Adding foreign objects to create pearls.  Edit

To Halong Bay. 

Made it to Halong bay after a nauseating 4 hour van ride.  The van itself was quite luxurious, but the driver was on and off the throttle, at one point I counted 5 times in 10 seconds.  Cell phone service is marginal here, so will probably post photos later.  The Indochina-Junk people are well organized, and the Dragon Legend normally sleeps 46 people, this trip only had 18.  Cabin is very luxurious and spacious, even has a bathtub as well as a shower.  The scenery is beautiful and we are anchored in a little nook for the night.   It’s really nice to have some peace and quiet and also not to have to go anywhere.

Visit to the Military History museum, walking around the French Quarter

Started the morning with a stop at a most beautiful Italian style cafe for a morning coffee.  Cafe Runam

Then walked quite a ways to the Military History museum.  Interestingly, largely focused on battles and movement pre-dating the “American” war.  They did have a good collection of planes and helicopters as well as guns from each era.  Interestingly a Banjo made it in there too.  Never really though of a banjo as a weapon of war, but I guess it could have its uses.  Stopped in for some fried Pho Bo at a street food booth, and then did some general wandering back with another stop for a light lunch at an Argentine steakhouse.  I’ll be headed out tomorrow on Indochina-Junk Dragon Legend for a 3 day 2 night cruise in Halong bay.  Cell service will be spotty and no internet on the boat, so will post when I can.  Starts with a 4 hour van ride to get to the boat.  Pictures when I can post them.   

Motorbike tour of Hanoi.

Had an excellent Motorbike tour of Hanoi.  I arranged it with a company called Paloma Tours.  They sent Trang to pick me up at 8:00am and we promptly went for coffee.  Wasn’t sure I’d be all that comfortable on the back of a scooter with a youngster driving me around, but she turned out to be a good driver, and spoke English well.  We went to many of the better known Hanoi sites, including the Temple of Literature (Confucian temple), the Long Bien bridge, the railroad street, a B52 crash site, and then to the main market for lunch.  Great way to see things, and her local knowledge made it stress free.  By the time we finished lunch, I’d had enough, so sent her on her way, but it was a lot of fun.  Went in search of good wifi to download pictures and ended up in Cafe called La Place.  Two very elegantly dressed girls made space for me.  I thought they were American tourists, but they ended up being locals who spoke very good English. One had spent time in San Jose, CA.  I suspect they were from very well to do families, since they both had Vespas, a status item here.  Temperatures have been very comfortable light jacket weather.  Interesting feature on the Honda scooter we rode:  Start stop technology.  See the photo, but the scooter basically shuts down when waiting at a light and then starts instantly when you are ready to go.

 

Exploring Hanoi, Hoa Lo prison, Women’s museum, electric bus.

Decided that it would be interesting to see the famous “Hanoi Hilton” Doa Lo prison.  Well curated tour with models and even the old French guillotine in what looks like working order.  Amazing the awful thing that humans do to each other.  John McCain’s flight suit or one like it is on display.  After this, found out where Barry and Tony Bourdain had eaten Bun Cha and went there for a good lunch.  Followed this with a visit to the Vietnam Women’s museum.  Mainly seems to be interested in marriage rituals in the different minority groups.  A cocktail at the Softel Metropole and then dinner on the backpacker street.  Lovely cool climate here in Hanoi, much easier to be walking around when it’s 70 degrees out.  Had a dinner at a touristy but good place sitting on the sidewalk.  Met two charming Aussies, and was able to hopefully share some info for them.  

Hoi An to Hanoi

Hanoi, with 7.5 million people,  is a bit of a shock after sleepy Hoi An.  Back to the scooters flying everywhere and mobs of people in the street.  After getting to the hotel from the airport, for various reasons I had the hotel arrange a car $15/ 45minute drive, I walked around Hoa Kiem lake.  Sundays they block the perimeter road from traffic, so it’s quite pleasant. Still trying to get oriented, but my hotel is is the heart of the “old Quarter.”  One of the streets gets blocked off nightly for a night market.  Food, both street food and restaurants are everywhere.  I ended up having dinner at Madame Hiens.  Duck 3 ways, very tasty.  This was because I read a book about a chef who did a stage at La Verticale, and this restaurant is owned by the same chef, Didier Corlu.  Today I’m headed to visit Haloa Prison, the “Hanoi Hilton” of wartime fame.  I’ve so far made a great effort to avoid war sites, as I want to see Vietnam in the lens of going forward.  Hanoi people seem to drive much more quietly, eg, without constant horns, but they seem to be much noisier personally, never saw people yelling in Saigon, but not uncommon here.  Very visible French influences here, both architecturally and culturally.  A walk into the Metropole Hanoi, the famous hotel, had all the staff greeting in French.  One of the tourist options here are electric shuttles, I’ll try a tour to see how it goes and get further oriented.