Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hanoi, Water Puppets, Train

Enjoyed the morning walking around the old quarter and taking photos. The sites, sounds and smells are amazing!! Erika and I had lunch at a local pho restaurant. When I say local I mean local. We were the only tourists in the place. Very authentic! In the afternoon we saw a water puppet show. Water puppets told the stories of daily life of the older Vietnam, when people traditionally worked the fields. After the rice harvest, farmers and the local community celebrated and entertained each other with musical tales using puppets they held up as they stood up to their waists in the water of the harvested rice paddy field. Then we went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and his House on stilts, One Pillar Pagoda, and Tran Quoc Pagoda. Later we enjoyed dinner at Ngon Restaurant, a delicious local restaurant. After dinner we went to the train station for our overnight train connection on the Victoria Express Train to Sapa, a Northern Vietnamese town in the mountains very close to the border with China. There were four bunks in each cabin. I had an upper berth. Needless to say, it was a real hoot!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Arrived in Hanoi

Left Hue at 5:30 am and flew to Hanoi. After checking into the Hanoi Tirant Hotel, we explored our new neighborhood. We’re in the heart of the old city and it’s bustling like crazy with activity. Shops line the narrow streets selling everything from chickens to I-phones. We saw a craft gallery with gold colored statues. In the afternoon we visited The Temple of Literature, which is a Confucius temple and includes the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first national university. Many students go there after graduation to pose for photos. Lots of young women were dressed in stunning traditional gowns. Then we went to the Ha Lò Prision, which was used by the French in Vietnam for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War when it was sarcastically known to American prisoners of war as the "Hanoi Hilton". The prison was demolished during the 1990s, though the gatehouse remains as a museum. John McCain was a prisoner of war there in 1967 after his plane was shot down in Hanoi. 

Friday, March 29, 2013


We had a very busy day exploring Hue today. Our first stop was a Buddhist temple. The grounds were beautiful. We were invited to watch a funeral service chanted by Buddhist monks. Nearby we also saw a little girl rolling incense and an artist painting a picture. His signature was very cool. Next we visited Tu Duc Tomb. The tomb complex has two areas: the ritual and the burial. There were lots of school children visiting this large complex. After a lunch at Tropical, we visited the Citadel and Imperial City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Imperial City was the center of government and court life throughout the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945). The city was severely damaged by natural disasters and wars in 1947 and 1968. I saw a dance performance in one of the theaters there. Then we visited the Thien Mu Pagoda, where we saw the leaning tower and observed a Buddhist ceremony. A wooden dragon boat took us back to our hotel along the Perfume River.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

From Hoi An to Hue

We left Hoi An this morning driving north along the mountainous coastline to Hue, passing through spectacular scenery along the way. First we stopped at Marble Mountain where Buddhist temples are built into the caves. The Marble Mountain area is also known for stone sculpture making. A short time later we reached China Beach, famous as a landing ground and later relaxation spot for American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Hai Van Pass provided another photo opportunity, where we saw bunkers. It was very foggy. After lunch at Lang Co Beach, we continued to Hue. Overnight LA RESIDENCE HOTEL & SPA, which is a really nice resort.