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Month: March 2006

Vietnam 05: Hanoi

Greetings from Hanoi.

Our second day in the Capital of Vietnam, and I must say that I much prefer the southern Ho Chi Minh City. The streets of Hanoi are much more narrow, especially in the old quarter where our hotel is located, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fit in a few hundred motorbikes anyway. The noise if deafening, the smells overpowering and you almost have to swim your way through the people, almost all of whom are trying to sell you something. Still better than the tourist area of Bali, Indonesia, at least here they take no for an answer. Luckily, tomorrow we’ll be leaving for two days for a trip in Halong Bay.

Outside the old quarter, streets get wider but not less crowded. We walked for a couple of hours on the shores of ake Hoam Kiem and through the embassy quarter to the presidential palace and Ho Chi Minhs mausoleum. Definately the largest tomb stone I’ve ever seen. We had lunch across the street from the danish embassy. Not on purpose, but it was nice to see the “dannebrog” (danish flag) again :)
Of course, we again found a place off the beaten track where they didn’t speak english, but my vietnamese is now good enough to count to five and order both hot and iced coffee. Black of course. However, we obviously were too touristy for the waitress, so this was the first time we didn’t get hopsticks. I must say, that I prefer chopsticks over the alternative as that is a fork and a spoon, but no knife. Learning how to use chopsticks is essential though, if you don’t want to starve. Maybe they say, you can’t eat soup with a fork, but you certainly can eat it with chopsticks. We also had “real soup” today. We were told by Minh (one of Fins collegues in HCMC) that soup did not have noodles in it. What soup with noodles is called if it isn’t soup, she couldn’t say though. I do need to find the recipe for the noodle soup when I get back. It’s really great for breakfast.

Anyway, off into the cold weather, 20 degrees C, cloudy and we even had some rain yesterday, and it doesn’t seem to improve the next few days), so I better go and dig out some warm clothes. Later tonight a water puppet show and probably an early night as we’ll have to get up early in the morning to set sail for Halong Bay.

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Vietnam 04: Hue

Greetings, this time from Hue about halfway between HoChiMinhCity and Hanoi. After flying out of HoChiMinh, we first arrived at HoiAn. HoiAn is a small town known for it’s tailer shops. I tell you, there are a lot of tailer shops there. Streets lined with them. So we couldn’t avoid having a suit tailer made. The rest of the town was strange. Lots of tourists, so you would expect all the shops, bars and restaurants that usually come with tourists. The tailer shops are there, but not many restaurants and almost no bars at all. The few bars that were there closed at 10pm. We did manage to find a bar serving the local beer from draught at d3000, about EUR 0,15. Probably a good idea they closed early :)

 After two days in Hoian, we took the morning bus (about 4 hours, 150km) to Hue. Again a strange town for tourists. A much bigger town, so more streetside restaurants, but almost no bars. We did stumble into The Belgian Bar last night, which served Leffe at extreme prices. The bar is run by a flemish guy, so I had to look twice when a european looking guy showed up at our table to ask for what we wanted to drink. That hasn’t happened the last few weeks. Even worse than talking dutch with the owner, the bar was also the meeting place for the local expats, so we ended up talking to 6 dutch people and one belgian, one of which studies biology in Utrecht. Small world…

Today we took a walk through Hue, trying to find the old citadel and forbidden city. Apart from the map in the big guide, we did not have a map of that area of the town, so of course we took a much longer tour than needed. As everywhere, we attracted the attention of the motorbike and cyclo (riskja) people to get us to let them drive us. This time the guy was much more irritating than usual and followed us for at least half an hour. He could not understand we wanted to walk in this heat and especially couldn’t understand why we didn’t think it was a bad idea that we were walking in the wrong direction. The fun was getting somewhere without tourists and getting an ice coffee without people speaking english. Which we did. Only 2 minutes walk from the forbidden city, just on the wrong side of the entrance. That’s enough from Hue, tomorrow on to Hanoi. The weather forcast looks very bad with thunderstorms and showers. I hope they have it wrong.

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Vietnam 03a: More pictures

Fin was kind enough to bring his laptop to the hotel the last night we were in Saigon and he copied the pictures over from my camera. He also uploaded them, so the result can be seen at the usual place. Again, they are completely unsorted and unedited, some of them might need an explanation ;-)

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Vietnam 03: Saigon 2

Back in Saigon after two days in the Mekong Delta. These was also the first days of tourist traps, but certainly not the last. The first day, there were times that you almost couldn’t spot the water from the boat due to the number of tourists around in other boats. The second day was very nice though, and relaxing in a boat going around the delta is not a bad way to spent a few days. Also a quick bicycle tour on one of the islands was good, although not quite the same exercise as an hour of spinning. In Saigon, the tourists are really concentrated in a small area, so if you know where they are, they are easy to avoid. For example, in the theme park there were not tourists whatsoever. Apart from a few couples taking pictures for their wedding, almost no vietnamese either. Gert-Jan wan a free ride in the rollercoaster though.The theme park also features a nice aquarium and a large garden, which was quite beautiful. The lights in the ice house was really awful though. Wait for the next batch of pictures. The first few days of pictures are already online here. On the way to the theme park, we decided to give the public transport a try. Why pay for a really, really expensive taxi drive of EUR 2-3 if there are busses for 20.000 dong, less then 1 danish crown or about 16 eurocents? Surprisingly, the drive was pretty fast and almost noone on the bus, so plenty of space. The only problem is finding the right bus or even finding out where the bus stop is. Today will be the last day in Saigon, so we’re off to say goodbye to Fin, who has been an excellent guide to Saigon. Tomorrow we start our journey to the north by flying to HoiAn and we’ll stay there for the next 3 days. From the sound of the other people we talked to on the tour today, a real tourist trap, but we can always read a book or two if it gets too bad Dinnertime!

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Vietnam 01: Ho Chi Minh City

Time for the for the spam broadcast again. This time from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. After a long, but quite uneventful flight we arrived here yesterday morning. Nor any problems with emigration and there was a taxi waiting for us at the airport, so finding the hotel wasn’t any problem either. So far, so good, but nothing to report. After a quick shower at the hotel, Fin came to pick us up for some lunch. The soup is very good here (I also had some for breakfast this morning, I’m going to to miss that when I get home). After that we went for a walk in the city center. If was fine just following Fin, after getting up at 4am to catch the first plane and then “sleeping” on the plane, all I could manage was hobbling behind our local guide and being sure that he could find the way back to the hotel, because I had no idea where we went ;-) Looking at a map this morning and walking around a bit on our own, I’m sure we’ll get the hang of it just before we leave the city again. Traffic is manageable in HCMC, although we haven’t tried rush hour yet. The city is overcrowded with the few millons of motorbikes, but crossing the road is easy. Just jump in front and they usually try to avoid hitting you. Your mileage may very ;) Nothing much to report on the local beer either. Of course, if you really want and look for it, Heineken and Carlsberg is available, if you want to pay extra. Local beer uses rice additions, but it’s cheap and refreshing in this weather. Anyway, time for some more walking, hopefully we can find our way to the botanical gardens and Saigon River. Oh, and a cold Saigon beer or two.

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