A Travellerspoint blog

Hue City

the conservative former capital

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(Hue, young family waiting for Mom)

I got up early and hired a car to Hue via some mountainous coastline (very similar to Highway 1 in Central California) and entered North Vietnam. Although my driver spoke sparse English we seemed to manage. It was foggy most of the trip, and we stopped in China Beach to see the marble carving factory (amazing artistry with some magnificient, mostly oversize pieces - geared toward hotels and estates worldwide). I could not resist a small carved marble vase, and was tempted by several others. The Vietnamese are extremely skillfull artisans, and the trinkets for sale here are really something to behold. They have antique reproductions of ultra fancy teapots that would make any collector green with envy. Looks like I'll be needing an extra bag to haul the stuff back home.

My driver suggested a hotel in Hue which has not turned out too well. It's cheap and clean enough, but the fact is it's downright boring, and I'll only be staying one night (found a much nicer place round the corner that has real class - balcony of course!). I took the famous Citadel self tour this afternoon (very very impressive if you're into ancient royalty and that sort of thing). As you probably guessed, I'm not really into much of the cultural stuff. I stopped at the exclusive Saigon Morin Hotel for another Singapore Sling, and I'm now using their very nice modern computers (most units in country are ancient, and it's a real pleasure to be using new stuff). This is one of Hue's original hotels and has a great deal of history itself.

Hue is also noted for being a gourmet, as well as cultural and educational center. It's said that most of the country's intellectual elite reside in Hue (sort of the Boston of VN?)

Susan sent more pictures this morning, and I must say that I'm impressed with her level of care. Fact is I'm just a little jealous after seeing Spud being held by one of the Jordans!!! I'm very happy that he's enjoying life too. Today for lunch we stopped for Bun Bo Hue (spicy pork noodle soup), and I fed the resident dog some fat and gristle from my bowl. I believe that most Vietnamese dogs are scavengers (you don't see any large or overweight dogs here).

Due to the fact that I have a rather short fuse, I have a real problem here with patience and being hounded constantly to buy buy BUY B-U-Y B--U--Y! These people look at tourists as walking ATM machines - constant "hello mister, you buy "XXX" from me?" or "motorbike mister" - at least 300 - 400 times every day! I've gotten to the point that I just ignore and play deaf mute. However, many will follow you down the street and the pitch goes on and on...

I can't believe my luck with weather, in fact, I wish it would rain a little. March is certainly an excellent time for this country. Already thinking about my next one - maybe Thailand? Time to find a crowded place for dinner - sure to be good that way. Last night in Hoi An, I took the suggestion of my friends from Western Australia and tried the only Indian place in town - best Indian I've ever had too.

Posted by Daawgon 12:15 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi

my favorite place so far

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(Hoan Kiem Lake, just a stroll round the "Central Park" of Hanoi)

Arrived in Hanoi on Thurs from Hue and had a little mixup at the airport. I was to be met by a driver from Hanoi Guesthouse, but no one held up my name on the many hotel namecards. I kept looking, finally started asking about other transportation options into Hanoi (quoted as much as 500,000 VND by one group, so I kept looking around), and finally saw a card held up by Hanoi Guesthouse, but my name was not on it. The guy took me anyway, and we drove through the Hanoi smog on quite a modern expressway to the Old Quarter. Arrived at the Guesthouse, but the gracious Ms. Thin had no room for me, but took me round the corner to another (sister) hotel. Ms. Thin was all apologies, etc., but I was pissed (I hade made the reservation at least 6 wks previously). She said she might have something the following day, but I decided to look elsewhere, and found the Kangaroo Hotel for $16.

Hanoi is interesting to say the least, and reminds me a little of New York - classier and very different. I believe it's more expensive here as one tends to eat more in established restaurants. I contacted my free guide service, Hanoikids, immediately about the hotel change, and met them as scheduled in the lobby of Hanoi Guesthouse yesterday at 9am sharp. Duc and Thuong were 2 youngsters under 30 who were keen to improve their English skills, and showed me a great time yesterday. In the afternoon, they were relieved by 2 younger sisters. Thuong is coming round again today to take me around to a museum or 2, and I invited all 4 guides to dinner tonight. There is no way I would have enjoyed my stay in Hanoi as much without them.

I bought a one-way train ticket to Lao Cai for my Sapa mini-trek, and leave Tues on the overnight King Express sleeper. Depends how I like Sapa on how long I'll be there (will be a nice break from Hanoi smog), and then back to the city for the last few days of my trip.

Time for my pho and coffee breakfast. Last night I had great fun with an upscale Vietnamese hotpot buffet dinner (almost set the place afire as some napkins went up on the sterno!)

Posted by Daawgon 12:13 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi update

trouble updating the blog

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(Thuong and Duc, my Hanoikids' guides, at the Red River Bridge)

I've been trying to update, but Hanoi and Travellerspoint just don't seem to be compatible right now.

Posted by Daawgon 12:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi Sunday

a busy center of fun

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(This town is totally alive at 18:00 on a Sun night)

For the second time today, I plugged in my card reader and tried loading pics to this blog, but I believe there must be a block of some sort for this site. Perhaps I offended some VN official with my offhand comments? There is no block here at the free terminal at the Hanoi Windows center, but there's no access to the USB plug necessary to use the card reader.

Next trip I think I'll rent a full shipping container in order to buy out the place - truly a shopper's paradise. Super art, sculpture, even mini musical instruments, silk, etc. It cost me less than USD .20 to use the Internet Cafe, but stamps are rather expensive @ 9000 VND to the States.

Went by Adventure Indochina Tours a second time to buy a return train ticket from Lao Cai, and Mr. Diep was so helpful. I walked into an agency at random, and just so happened to pick the one where my friend, Wendy, had ordered her e-visa, and Mr. Diep said, "hello John Wagner, Wendy told me bout ya". He picks up on names, and noticed that the name on my train tickets matched the Skype chat session he had had with the now famous Wendy.

Everyone's talking bout Wendy (she canceled Hanoikids yesterday), and even Diep said that this lady is strange (he commented that this 72 year old American wears mighty short shorts!) Wendy and I never met face to face, but emailed each other after I answered her question about air fares (Thorn Tree/Lonely Planet's Vietnam forum). She needed a good fare for her friend (she's on medical leave from United Airlines and gets to fly nonrev, aka free). Her friend canceled, I felt sorry for Wendy, and I suggested we travel together for a few days to Sapa, however, when Wendy asked for a discount on an already ultra-low hotel room ($13.) in Sapa, I pulled out! I figured this woman to be some kind of ugly American who goes around asking for special privileges in the Third World.

Ms. Thin sent me yet another email today - she invited me to her wedding party on 3/27, but I'll be in Sapa then. Ms. Thin and I go way back. She's the one who did not hold my reservation at Hanoi Guesthouse (I had booked at least 6 wks in advance), and she's worried that I'll say nasty things about her hotel at Tripadvisor (maybe, maybe not!)

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(Thanks again, Thuong and Duc of Hanoikids for showing this Yank the sights)

Off to the P.O. down the H.K. Lake and then for some Bia Hoi (that's fresh beer - cheaper than bottled water in Hanoi).

Till tomorrow...

Posted by Daawgon 12:09 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi Monday

success at last

I got the brilliant idea this am to save images from Flickr to local disk, and then to upload into Travellerspoint without reloading from my memory stick. It worked too!

Just had a wonderful breakfast at Highland's Coffee of fresh coconut juice, VN coffee, VN breakfast plate of fried egg, bread, cold meats/pate and fruit plate. After suffering with VN ice cream, I discovered wonderful gelato stands here across from H.K. Lake (every bit as good as Portland too!) Also saved a little last night by eating off a street stand that sold a sandwich (banh) of grilled meat or kebab with salad and other veggies + chili sauce (the VN gyro of sorts - EXCELLENT too, I'll be back, and only 15,000 VND). This is truly a foodie country. One reason for the air pollution is the thousands of charcoal burners for street stalls selling food of all sorts. Thuong introduced me to che, or a sort of tapioca snack mixed with various fruits or those tiny balls they put in bubble tea + crushed ice - very very good. And I was afraid they'd have nothing but pho (pronounced "fur"). Thuong, herself, is happy with soup noodles of some sort three times a day.

A few minutes ago, I pulled out a few 500 VND notes to give to a monk, but he wanted the big stuff, and refused me. As I was attempting to give alms to the poor, one of the clerks here at Hanoi Windows center was giving me negative hand gestures through the window, or as if to say "don't do it!" When I went inside, she said that the government doesn't appreciate these begging activities of the monks at all.

I guess it's time to continue my exploration in the Old Quarter. Till next time ...

Posted by Daawgon 12:07 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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