Wednesday, 21 November 2012

~ Hoi An - Part 1 ~

A little behind but desperately trying to catch up with myself.
On Sunday we had a morning walking tour of Hoi An. This is a gorgeous old town with architecture from french, chinese, japanese and vietnamese influences. The main centre and aroundthe dock is pedestrian, cyclo and motorbike only so the bus dropped us on the outskirts and we walked in.
Firstly we stopped at Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall which is a Chinese Temple used by the local community. Above is the gateway in to its beautiful courtyard. Inside the temple were tens of spiral incense sticks which hang fromt he ceiling, each one has been donated by a family and has a message hung in the centre.

Unfortunately due to a tropical depression which has been affecting Vietnam's weather it began to drizzle with rain during our tour. Second on the sightseeing list was the Japanese Covered Bridge, only 1 of 2 in Vietnam.
We then visited Phung Hung which is a house of architectural importance as it contains French, Chinese and Vietnamese designs. I was abit disappointed as it was more like a selling opportunity. The lady of the house was more interested in showing us table cloths than actually showing us the house's features.
We then walked aside the river where the dock was. All along the riverside were brightly coloured lanterns hanging in trees.

We stopped at a local restaurant for a drink and then some lunch. Mum and I shared White Rose Dumplings and a chilli and gorgonzola pizza (not very vietnamese but very tasty!).
In the afternoon we took a boat trip across the river to one of the islands. The inhabitants have set up a co-operative to give cycle tours of the are to the tourists. I hadn't really been on a bike properly for about 12 years.

The bikes were rickety and rusty but worked well. I really enjoyed the tour even though it was raining and we got very wet! On the tour we stopped off at a Conical makers house (local fishing boat), a bed mat maker, a mandarin's house and a woodcarvers. In total we covered about 12km. It was a nice ride as most of the journey was flat.

In the evening we visited 'Morning Glory' for our evening meal. It was a lovely meal although some bits were abit greasy for me. I loved the BBQ chicken with lime leaves. Above I am eating the local speciality of crispy pancake wrapped in rice flour pancake.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

~ Ha Long Bay ~

A bit behind time but here we go! Our next part was an overnight trip to Ha Long Bay which I must say is breath taking. So after a 3.5 hour bus journey we joined a boat for 2 days.
Unfortunately the weather on the first day was a little hazy so the islands were not clealy seen by the camera. We had a fantastic 3 course lunch before heading off to Luon Cave. We went via a small wooden boat through a cave in to a small lagoon.
After this we sailed for a little while before going to Tiptop island, which has a man-made beach and the opportunity to walk up 427 steep steps to reach the summit and its amazing views (unfortunately this was hampered by being involved in a medical emergency, thankfully someone took some photos with my camera for me!)

The views from the top were stunning and you could see for miles!

I was fortunate to catch a quick glimpse of the stunning sunset over the bay.

One of the chefs showed us how to create decorative objects from food such as tomato roses. We had a leisurely evening of food and a lovely massage.

After getting up at 5.15am to see the disappointing sunrise (as it was too cloudy!) we had a session of Tai Chi on the deck of the boat. This was highly amusing and certainly woke us up.

The final part of our trip to Ha Long Bay was to visit the Surprise Cave which is a hugh cave system containing 4 very large spectacular caves. We then had breakfast and set sail for the mainland and Hanoi Airport.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

~ Hanoi - A day in the Capital ~

An early start today to beat the crowds at the various monuments we were visiting. First up was a short bus journey to Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum. It was an amazing building in beautiful grounds. (Although I have to say visiting a dead person was not what I would call a holiday attraction!). 

The mausoleum, palace and house on stilts are all governed by the Honor Guards, who were rather scary with their bayonets.

We had lots of insight in to Vietnam's history today including Uncle Ho's huge role in Vietnam's independence from the French. We visited the service quarters which Ho Chi Minh used instead of the Presidential Palace and then the house on stilts which was built for him by the people. After this we briefly stopped by the one pillar pagoda.
This beautiful archwayis at the Temple of Literature which is where Confucious lived and taught his disciples. This is a very important place for Vietnamese people and many try to follow in Confucious' teachings.

 Many people visit the Confucious Temple to worship his statue and ask for assistance in exams. Many people come here to have photos taken when they graduate from college.
We then had some free time where we had lunch (Hanoi spring rolls and Beef fried rice), a leisurely coffee and wrote postcards home.
The evening was taken up by a walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter to the Water Puppet Theatre. The show was interesting but once you had seen a few of the sketches I had had enough. Luckily it only lasted about 45 minutes.

Tonights group meal was at 'Little Hanoi' and consisted of a 4 course banquet. Pumpkin soup, Spring Rolls, 5 spice chicken, catfish with dill, Caramelised Pork, Grilled aubergine and steamed rice. Dessert was a selection of fresh fruit. All of which was washed down nicely with local beer.
All packed and ready to set sail in Ha Long Bay tomorrow!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

~ Cha Ca ~

Tonight the whole group (14 of us) went out to a local fish restaurant which serves only one dish - Cha Ca. Which is a speciality of Northern Vietnam.
It consists of fish that is fried at your table, then you add vermicelli noodles, peanuts, chilli, spring onions and dill. Then finally add a dash of fish sauce to the mix.

The restaurant was recommended by our tour leader and was well worth it. We enjoyed ample food and a drink each for the measly price of 170,000 VND (Approx £5). It was abit of a DIY meal as all the ingredients were in individual bowls, but that was ideal for me as it meant I didn't end up with too much green stuff!
Mum and I then enjoyed a cocktail and a milkshake in the hotel bar (which cost nearly as much as the meal!)
Busy day with an early start tomorrow so off to bed now and hoping the jetlag doesn't affect me too much.

~ Good Morning Vietnam! ~

Hello there ... it's been a long while since I used my blog, not sure where the time has gone. I have just arrived in Vietnam for a touring holiday and am going to use this as a travel journal to try and jog my memory for when I scrapbook the photos. So if this is not of interest to you then please bear with me.
We traveled to Gatwick via train on Monday 12th November 2012 and stayed overnight at the Hilton. We then boarded a Vietnam Airlines Boeing 777 at lunchtime on the 13th November. The journey took around 11 hours and the highlight was the Vietnamese 'pot noodles' available.
On arrival at Hanoi we were met by our tour leader, Long and after a short bus journey we arrived at our first hotel. As the rooms were not ready to check in we all went for a traditional Vietnamese breakfast of Chicken Noodle Soup - I have to say it was gorgeous even though I wasn't hungry.
We checked in and settled in to our rooms. I checked the wifi connection was working. The hotel room is beautifully decorated.

After a short break we decided to go for a wander around Hanoi, starting with the Truc Bach Lake. It was very hazy and humid here. 

After we wandered the streets, practising our road crossing technique, as you simply have to walk out in to the traffic and keep going at a steady speed. So far so good.

Throughout the streets are little bird cages with finches dotted around on shop fronts and across pedestrian walkways. Not sure of their significance at the moment.

One thing is for sure, if living in Hanoi you must travel by motorcycle. Everywhere you go there are hundreds. You can't even walk on the pavement as they have them parked all over it.
Off for a traditional fish meal at 'Chaca' tonight.