Sunday, 29 November 2015

Vietnam Day 2 - Hanoi

This was scheduled for us as a free day with only the welcome dinner in the evening programmed as our first tour activity but at the airport pick up the previous evening we were asked to assemble in the afternoon for a city tour.

We began the day with a hotel breakfast. As expected there were many offerings of a savoury nature traditional in the Asian diet which we three would not usually eat as breakfast items.

This dish attracted our attention;

What might it look like? Well, take a look for yourself;

It looked, and tasted, like a beef stew. Quite nice really although not what I would usually eat for breakfast.

It was raining quite steadily and we decided to use our free morning to explore the neighbourhood and the nearby lake, one of many in Hanoi. I had brought an umbrella with me from Sydney but the others had not. We were directed to a nearby supermarket where CE and ME purchased umbrellas for a handful of dollars. CE managed to cut himself opening the umbrella for the first time drawing blood so we returned to the hotel briefly for him to be bandaged. Then we set off.

Dodging stalls, people seated on kiddie type stools eating on the footpath, motor bikes parked on the footpath and all manner of other obstacles we eventually reached Thong Nhat Park. Across the road we circled around this serene lake which my iPhone identified as being in Lenin Park.

Thien Quang Lake

A nearby school with Ho Chi Minh's image prominent;

A Hanoi street at school pick up time (around 11.30 am) for those students attending morning school. (A different set of children would arrive at 1.00 pm for those attending afternoon school.)

After about three hours of walking we returned to our hotel for the briefest of breaks before the city tour.

The Hanoi skyline viewed from our hotel room;

In the afternoon we embarked on the city tour, which turned out to be two events which the tour program stated were to have occurred the next day; a walk past Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and a visit to the Temple of Literature. We assumed we would be returned to the hotel to freshen up for the evening's welcome dinner following the tour but as it turned out we were taken directly to the dinner from the tour; CE, ME and myself still in the clothes we had sweated through in our long morning's walk in the rain.

Assembling for the city tour we met our fellow group travellers for the first time. We were a party of eighteen in total, all from Australia and all pretty well proving to be delightful travel companions for the following three weeks.

First stop the Mausoleum which our group could only view from the outside in a slow walk past;

Next stop, which we could and did explore for about an hour was the Temple of Literature, a centuries old complex of courtyards which was Vietnam's first University;

At the end of our visit the sun had set and we were taken across the road to a training restaurant run by disadvantaged teenagers for our first meal as a group. No photos of this but the meal was reasonable enough.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Vietnam Day 1

The first day our trip was basically a travel day. Two flights to take us from Sydney to Hanoi via Singapore.

'Us' comprised friends CE, ME and myself. The first leg was by Singapore Airlines to Singapore; a flight of about 7½ hours. The plane was modern and in good condition and the service and catering were good. After a transit stop at Singapore of nearly two hours the second leg flight was by Singapore Airlines subsidiary SilkAir.

The two airlines seemed like chalk and cheese. The SilkAir plane was clearly very old and the service and catering ordinary. We arrived in Hanoi after sunset around 6.30pm from memory.

Descent to Hanoi
The most notable sights on the drive to our airport were the French style buildings with narrow frontages; virtually one room wide. Apparently wider buildings attract a higher tax. I wasn't expecting the maze of neon style advertising prevalent all around the city. Block after block was crowded with local families eating their evening meal on footpaths and street frontages.

Our hotel in Hanoi was the Sunway Hotel; a chain of hotels under Malaysian ownership. It was cited as Four Star but I reckon it was a little under that standard but quite acceptable. CE and I were on the 10th floor and were to find ourselves waiting ages for lift service from that level.

On this night and after two flights none of us felt hungry enough for a meal but we wandered around nearby blocks for somewhere to enjoy a drink and we stumbled across a restaurant we were to return to several times for meals. The Quan An Ngon at 26 Tran Hung Dao has lots of character and good local meals at low cost. I recommend it should you find yourself in Hanoi.

Quad An Ngon Restaurant

At this point we were not aware of how many others were on our escorted group tour. The tour proper was to start the following afternoon when we would meet our other travel companions for the first time.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Be it ever so humble.....

....there's no place like home.

Our descent into a cloudy Sydney this morning

We have returned to Sydney this morning weary after a somewhat gruelling schedule but very happy with our visit to Vietnam and Cambodia. The positives of our tour clearly outweigh the few negatives.

Will post photos from the trip in the days to follow.


If all goes to schedule and flights are punctual, arrival in Sydney at 11.40am.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Siem Reap

A free day in Siem Reap ahead of departure tonight for Singapore, thence on to Sydney.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Siem Reap

A boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake. In the evening a farewell dinner at New Hope, a training restaurant.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Siem Reap

The site of temple ruins from the Khmer Empire and the first of to days at Angkor Wat.