In early February 2012, wishing to use accrued air miles before I aged too much to comfortably travel and enjoy the experiences, and having never been west of Hawaii, I embarked for a month visiting northern VietNam and southern Thailand. I had three primary criteria for choosing destinations:
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|Korean Air provided the flights from Seattle to HanNoi via Seoul, Korea, along a great circle route over pack ice in the Baring Sea north of the Aleutian Islands.
Ironically, the Airbus A330-200 departing Seattle, was the same plane used for the second flight to HaNoi. Of course to move to the assigned seat a couple rows forward required deboarding, walking the length of the concourse, changing floors, passing through airport security, returning the concourse length, and reboarding.
|Arriving HaNoi airport just before 11PM, I was accosted by several men who used English to offer assistance. When, after much searching, I did not find my previously arranged ride, I accepted assistance from one fellow who identified my destination of Mike's Hotel and instructed a taxi to take me there. He refused to accept any compensation for his assistance. (I wonder if such assistance would be found at an American airport for a traveller not speaking the local language.)
MIke's Hotel, on a backstreet corner now far from the center of HaNoi, seemed a strange combination of two tall, narrow buildings, each with separate stairways to rooms above. While simply providing basic accommodations, Mike's provided a very tasty free breakfast, free WiFi access to the internet, the usual TV and in-room safe, and arrangements for a wide variety of tours. The fellows who operated the hotel invited me (alone) to join them for dinner the following evening. Their English was marginal, and I speak no Vietnamese. They were very gracious hosts and I tried to be an ideal, appreciative guest.
|The hotel appeared to have a strong French influence. My room has a balcony with small table and chair overlooking the street corner. To the right across the street was a wonderful bakery with nice French pastries.
The next day I visited the few months old Concordia International School, an effort by Lutherans to promote international relations by providing for the children of employees of foreign corporations wishing to do business in Vietnam. They warmly welcomed my visit. Among many conversations, the tried to help me understand cultural differences. They explained that business transactions often involved
kickbacks,which helped explain the previous evening's refusal of compensation. They also mentioned that I would observe that local drivers were among the world's worst.
They kindly asked one of their local employees to arrange for me a cultural tour of the city.
|The tour included a driving tour of a few of HaNoi's highlights, dropping the guide and me off at the National Museum of Ethnology, the Temple of Confucius, the First Imperial Academy (university), and for a walking tour of old town. The indoor Museum has many exhibits of aspects of Vietnamese culture from the diverse regions. Outside are a number of restored houses and burial buildings from Vietnam's various regions.|
|Inside one of several ancient homes at Ethnology Museum|
|Facing reverse direction to previous photo: bedroom|
|Enclosed bedroom at left for use by women during menstruation; perhaps attic is for sleeping children?|
|Museum of Ethnology: Ancient Vietnamese Long House similar to long houses of Pacific Northwest natives|
|Statue honoring Confucius inside Temple|
|Model of Imperial Academy and Temple of Confucius. These people have fended off 17 Chinese invasions, plus driven out the French and Americans to be an independent country.|
|Inside gate to First Imperial Academy (university), founded 1076. This gate is shown on one of Vietnamese bills. (Remember you can enlarge an image by clicking on it.)|
|Turtles carrying engraved stones honoring graduating Imperial Academy classes|
|This woman is a walking restaurant in the center of HaNoi; She, as both cook and waitress, will prepare and serve a meal at your request. Such roving restaurants are not uncommon in VietNam.
Note what in parts of the world are called
sidewalksare here used for parking (generally motor cycles) and people walk in the streets with the vehicle traffic.
The next day I jointed a bus load of tourists heading for viewing HaLong Bay by junk.