Vietnam - Amazing and Mystique
When we looked at a destination for our annual Christmas journey, the guidance came from the available stock of miles at my miles and more account. The only condition for a longhaul-flght was to go business class. This was not easy and after a call with agent at miles and more we decided to go to Hanoi in Vietnam with Turkish Airlines. The public news regarding the political situation were disappointing. We ignored it and started on 1st day of Christmas from Hamburg with the commuter flight to Istanbul. And this was already a nice experience. Short after take off the Chef de Cuisine appeared and took our wishes for the menu. Very charming, we felt like a real guest not only a passenger. Ok, we got the right choice with the airline.
Approaching the Istanbul airport - next "shock". This is a very very busy place at 11.30 p.m. It took us a while to get to the business lounge which we got access with our tickets. It made us the layover for connecting flight to Nahoi much more convenient. It is like a 10 big restaurants integrated in one super big place. After that we boarded the next plane for the long haul. On board after take off again meeting with the Chef and making a decision for the midnight meal. Finaly the stewardess converts the seats to 100% flat beds. It was long enough even for me. This style of traveling is definitely in line with the human rights.
After arrival at Hanoi airport a taxi brought us in the old city in a small town-hotel. A bit of rest, thrill down and small meal in the restaurant. Starting wih the early evening a walk through the iluminated Hanoi city. The view at night on the small inner lake of the city is magnificent. We were interested to visit an old historic hotel and decided to use a Rikscha. This hotel has hosted a lot of famous people and politicians. We saw a picture from our current cancellor. In the courtyard of the hotel is a very nice calm pool bar, nice to sit there. We got in touch with 2 japanese business men and enjoyed the drinks with them together.
Next day walk through the old city and Sabine visited a hairdresser. In the meantime I took videos from the street-life around me. In this area are lots of small workshops who do all kind of equipment for kitchen, restaurant. They "manufacture" their stuff directly in the room like a garage and put it outside of that room on the footwalk for people to buy and collect.
During the evening before i looked into Wikipedia for details of Hanoi. I discovered something what if wanted to visit for sure. There is prison built by France during 1904 to arrest vietnamese freedom-warriors. During the war of Vietnam the entire complex was used to arrest american prisoners of war. It became one of the most notorious prisons in Vietnam for US soldiers and they named it Hanoi-Hilton. During my reading in Wikipedia i started to remember that the famous senator McCain was arrested here. His airfighter got fired off, when he flew over the lake of Hanoi. The Vietnamese pulled him out of the lake without any considerations of his heavy injuiries and broken legs. It os not difficult to imagine how he was treated in prison. We spent half a day to walk through the complex.
For the next spot we had to use a minibus. We reached the sea and a pretty big dockside or harbour for cruise-ships. It was imperessing to see at least 12 of these impressive ships in their historical style. After boarding of the ship and taking the cabin the ship left the harbour and crossed the sea towards the world famous Halong-Bay. It is not really a bay but a group of "smaller" and bigger forrested hilly island in the sea. The scenery is hard to describe and always changes. A scene of one of the James Bond movies was taken from here. So an absolutely must to take this tour. We had booked one night on board with dinner and enjoyed a fantastic sunset. It was only one night on board and it was ok for us.
Next morning the cruise went back to the harbour. Guests who had booked 2 nights were left on a place with beach and docked in the afternoon back on board. We are not the beach people, so we were glad that we could retunr back. The minibus brought us back to Hanoi where we checked in the Sheraton. The Hotel was a bit aged from outside but inside very nice and excellent service. It is located in a quite sophisticated area with good restaurants in the near and nice shops. So good place to stay. Our flight for Hoi An was going next day with Vietnam Airlines. We had purchased this flight regular and booked for a very small mark up business class. Fantastic lounge in Hanoi airport and worldsclass-service on board.
Rainy season!! We arrived here in Hoi An during a period with permanent rain. Sabine had an inspiration before the trip and had taken 2 rain-capes in here suitecase. She had bought them as a present for friends. They were very helpfull here and made the rain a bit more easy to live with. From the hotel we could walk alongside a canal and arrived the historical part of the city within 10 minutes. There we strolled between lots of shops and small restaurant always at the riverside. People are used to the rain and take rain-capes but no shoes. It was warm enough. Sometimes the rain stopped for some hours. Even more nice. Some of the shops do closes designed personal for you. They take messurement from your body and you make choice of different materials. We ordered a couple of trousers and jackets, they did within 2 days and delivered to the hotel.
We ran into new years eve 31st December. And we did not expect a lot ands got really suprised. A fantastic performance on the stage with highly professional entertainers. Impressing countdown, "We are the world" from kids in national dress on screen, suddenly everybody had a small paperboat with a candle in his hand following the song. We all felt unified. The couintdown reached 24 and suddenly a massive firework took off in front of the stage and at the river. The scenerey changed completely and a sexy D-Jane appeared on stage and started to rock the party with her mixer. A guy from the people's police fully dressed up was standing close with us and looked around. Nobody took notice from him or got nervous. But everybody disciplined. Unforgetable
New year - we walked through the city - regular live. Only in the evening again paperboats with candles on the river.
It took us another ride with a small minibus to reach one of the oldest temple-complexes: My Son. It tooks us though villages and countryside at rain, rain and rain... My Son is located about 50 km outside of Hoi An. This arrangement with 70 temples has been built between 5th and 13th century. Totay it is protected as Worl Cultural Heritage. We felt that just because of the rain the entire environment had a magic appearance. The walk around was a bit tough because of the rain but it was at the same time mystic. Before we retunred i complained the limited space in the minibus for a tall European. Now i could sit beside the dirver on the right side. He played nice music from a CD from the 80ies like "Seasons in the Sun" or "San Francisco". I used the Ipad to take movies from the rainy Vietnam with the music in the background while he was driving. The Ipdad has an excellent stabilisator for movies if you take them during the drive.
Meanwhile we started to love this samll city Hoi An. With the help of Sabine's rain-capes we could make ourself more comfortable with the rain. We started to adjust ourself to the rythm of the old historical city at the river. But time was short and we needed to say byby. The Plain was waiting for return to Hanoi. We checked in again in Sherator Hanoi and started to discover this part around the greater city lake of Hanoi. Close by the Sheraton is the Intercontinental Hotel located with the bar on the lake. The entire area reminded us to what we name the Aussenalster in Hamburg. This was the place for the last cocktails before we hade to leave back for Hamburg.
Heading back with Turkish Airlines to Hamburg via Istanbul. Another very convenient flight. During layover in Istanbul we used the shower and the breakfast buffet in the lounge. Again: this airport is really busy.
Before we started we checked for mobile Internet with Vodafone. But the offer for Vietnam was not really what we were looking for. It was ok for only emergency but not for frequent use. So we decided to look for solutions in Vietnam when we are there. In an electronic shop we could buy a regular mobile Hot spot for about 90 Euro. The SIM-Data-Cards are available at the official shops from the domestic providers fo the mobile internet. The most present one for us was Viettel. We presented my passport and they sold and relased us the 4-G-SIM-Card in the shop. We pushed the card in the hot spot and initially we were online. We purchased in total 2 cards one 3 GB and the other 6 GB. The second card was not empty when we went back home. The Mobile Hot Spot has USB Connection, so you can charge it with any device.