Month: February 2018

Vietnam

Hanoi

Last year I visited Vietnam for the first time, choosing Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) as my base. Once I had overcome my initial fear of the crazy traffic which seemed to have no rules…I fell in love with the place. This time I selected Hanoi in the North of Vietnam as a starting point. Again I was enchanted by the scenery, the people, the mix of cultures and the delicious food.

Close to where I was staying there were many impressive French Colonial Buildings as well as traditional temples and a large central lake that brings a sense of calm amidst the chaotic traffic of this vibrant capital city.

Hanoi Opera House

Hoan Kiem Lake

Interior of temple on Jade Island at the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake

Halong Bay

Max, the deputy manager of the B & B Hotel, showed me a number of options for visiting this iconic area of Vietnam…I selected the Emerald two-day cruise and was not disappointed. It took a pleasant few hours by coach to arrive at the ferry that would us to the departure point. It seemed impossible to cram so many lorries, coaches and cars onto the decks of the ferry. Once the coaches were on, we followed on foot to find whatever seating space we could for the short voyage.

Waiting for the Halong Bay ferry

Once on board, I was allocated a two bed cabin on the main deck next to the dining room. The main meals were splendid…we had cooked oysters in a light creamy sauce au gratin. That was just starters! Both lunch and dinner brought fresh delights…in contrast, breakfasts were quite boring. For most meals, I shared a table with a young French family with a small toddler, who provided a source of constant amusement.

We anchored overnight in a secluded harbour. Magical peace and stillness!

A few of the younger passengers went kayaking whilst the majority of folk took up the option of riding bicycles to a local traditional village – I opted for a walk instead. Altogether, I reckon this was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the trip.

Temple of King Dinh Tien Hoang & Tam Coq

An early start was needed for the one day trip to the 17th Century Temple of King Dinh Tien Hoang and rowboats into limestone caves at Tam Coq. Our tour guide spoke English, but not well enough to answer questions about basic historical facts. Fortunately, I was with an assorted bunch of very friendly people from different countries who willingly pooled information from guidebooks and personal experience.

 

Temple of King Dinh Tien Hoang

Whilst it was truly amazing to sit back and be rowed through the caves by local people; for the feet-rowing locals…it seemed to be more of a money grabbing opportunity, which rather spoiled the occasion.

Tam Coq Limestone Karst

Hanoi Cathedral stopped holding an English Sunday mass many years back. The 11.00am mass in French was accompanied by an amplified acoustic guitar and choir. It was not particularly well attended, in contrast to the packed English Eucharist at St John’s Cathedral Hong Kong where it was standing room only.

Hanoi Cathedral

 

 

 

January 2018

Birmingham Airport

Not everyone enjoys long haul flights to get to the other side of the planet…but for me it’s part of the adventure. Having a good book to read also helps to pass long waits at hub airports like Dubai. This year I got as far as Auckland New Zealand taking in Hong Kong, Hanoi in Vietnam and one of my favourite destination…Melbourne Australia.

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Hong Kong

This was my first visit to Kong Kong. I arrived just before the New Year…which no doubt explains why the YHA was fully booked. The expensive hotel room I found as an alternative was not at all what I expected; my accomodation comprised a small, cramped room…the tiniest shower room with no hot water in the wash basin. Almost the entire wall facing the door was window overlooking the harbour…unfortunately, this particular harbour was a container port that operated 24 hours every day of the week.  The noise was constant!

Thankfully, I quickly got the hang of Hong Kong’s excellent public transport system. It was a pleasant surprise to find that that the Octopus Card which covers all forms of public transport had a Senior Citizen option to which older tourists were entitled; it offered a huge discount on the standard fares. Great! This was much appreciated because Hong Kong is quite an expensive place to visit…and the British Pound doesn’t go as far as it used to do.

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Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior paying a visit to Victoria Harbour

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Botanical & Zoological Gardens

Having watched the New Year fireworks in the far distance and booked at the YHA for the end of the Hong Kong visit…I zoomed off to Northern Vietnam (separate post)

On my return, I bumped into Ian from Stafford and his Taiwan friend at the Maritime Museum on Central Pier. The weather had changed so the sensible thing to do in Hong Kong on a rainy day is to visit one of its many museums and art galleries. Tuesday, it seems is the one day when they all close…apart from the Maritime Museum, which stoically opens every day of the week. They had a fabulous silverware exhibition as well as their fascinating permanent collection.

Model of Dragon Boat

Cruise ship at Ocean Terminal Harbour City

Hong Kong is a unique Island City…I hardly had time to do more than scratch the surface. When time and funds permit…I shall return to explore some of its hidden treasures.