Feb. 25, 2008 – Monday- travel day

                         Fly Viet Nam Air to Danang from Nha Thong on to Hoi An

                         Cost: $43US for flight

        Booked Vietnam Air flights at head office while in Saigon
        Sinh Café booked us a taxi to airport 40 min. $12
        Also booked for a taxi pick up in Danang and on to HoiAn for $15US                        
              (We checked with taxi’s at the airport and found price the same)
        No train stop in HoiAn so if taking the train up you get off in Danang

  Hotel: Thanh Binh III  in Hoi An
               98 Ba Trieu Str. Hoi An town
               Email: vothihong@dng.vnn.vnn   www.thanhbinhhotel.com.vn
               Booked ahead by Sinh Café in Na Trang

                      Cost $25 breakfast included


 Restaurant: Cargo Club  good cakes, great lunches
                        Café des Amis – Best Vietnamese set meal $5  A MUST!
                                Located by river near market at 52 Rue Bach Dang

To airport in Na Tang by Sinh Cafe and met in Danang for taxi on to Hoi An

*The Thanh Binh hotel here was fantastic.  There is a huge dining area that is all wood with wood beaded curtains, Ming vases, big ceramic Buddha’s and a wonderful efficient and friendly staff and a SWIMMNG POOL!  

 Internet is free in the lobby and the breakfast included is a huge buffet.

Feb. 26 & 27th, 2008 – Tuesday & Wednesday in HoiAn

       To See: Cooking school –Morning Glory Restaurant
                      Silk tailors – Have clothes tailor made in one day
                                                or less in dozens of shops
                      Hoi An Old Town –  Unesco Site
                      Rent bikes to see town
                      Vietnamese Dance & Music performance x2 a day


                                                                                     OLD TOWN HOI AN

In the 16th and 17th centuries, HoiAn was the international trading center in South Vietnam where foreign merchant ships came in great numbers for annual commercial fairs that lasted from 4 to 6 months.  Right in this old town Japanese, Chinese, Dutch and Indian traders set up their emporiums or established their own quarters for permanent habitation.  From these old trading days it has made HoiAn a culturally interesting living museum of architecture and lifestyle.

On the canal in the center of town are fishing boats with circular baskets a type of small fishing craft seen along the coast.

Gayla at Cargo Club Cafe

The old town of HoiAn has a unique concentration of architectural monuments of various forms and old houses along the streets that cut one another forming good examples of symbolic oriental cities in the Middle Ages.  From the market to the wharf many have been preserved intact. 

Night time the lanterns shops light up, a sculpture in the river glows and the streets are safe and alive.   If weather is good this is a good place to rent bikes and tour the countryside.  Also there are many offer’s to ride around  on the river in a little local boat paddled by women. 

River sculpture lit up at night

 The world famous 53 year old owner of Café des Amis loves European music, has over 50 Vietnamese dishes so the evening set meal is always diverse and interesting... all for only $5US

Morning Glory Cooking School
       Try the smoky eggplant

Silk shops and tailors by the hundreds, so have something made,  be surprised how good and cheap it is.  Just pick out the fabric and chose a style.  Shoes made also but difficult to fit properly. 
Hand made beautiful clothes averaging about $10US for a tailor fit Thai silk blouse, are made in one day


The Japanese covered bridge built in the former Japanese quarter in the early 17th century is a unique symbol of the past.  Across the bridge there is another part of town thriving with vendors, workshops & art galleries

Handicraft workshops
  Lantern making


Wood carving
In the last 450 years pottery was produced & also provided traditional building materials


The Reach Out Shop help girls with disabilities.  This deaf girl made the silk wall hanging I bought with the longevity symbol for only $22US

 HoiAn is situated in a natural landscape among the rice fields.

Folk songs and dance are an extraction of classical drama and use traditional musical instruments

So wonderful with it's old aged and traditionally well kept cultural activities, habits and customs, HoiAn was our favorite town in Vietnam.


The capitol of Vietnam from 1802 to 1954.  With the colonial French withdrawal from Hue in 1954 Vietnam divided into North and South Vietnam.   Hue, only 50 miles south of the new border suffered extensive damage in the Vietnam war.  Here the bloody battle in 1968 pitted troops from North Vietnam against the South Vietnam forces and American Marines.

Over 50,000 American people organized walking to Washington to have a meeting, protest against the war in Vietnam and ask the Government to withdraw American troops back to America, on 27 November 1965.

Feb 28, 2008 – Thursday- travel day

           Bus to Hue from HoiAn  
           Booked by Sinh Café  18B Hai Ba Trung St. also booked hotel
           Pick up at HoiAn hotel and drop off at Sport Hotel in Hue

                Cost $3    1 ½ hours

     Hotel: Sport Hotel
                  15 Pham Ngu Lao Std
                  PH: hotline +84 989 661264 
                  Email:huestays@gmail.com   www.huestays.com  
                  Booked by Sinh Café in HoiAn

                Cost: $22

 Restaurant: Little Italy- Good food at end of and across street
                        Chambole – French style, few doors from hotel



*The bus was huge, half empty and the trip up from HoiAn goes through Danang to Hue a 135 mile trip.  It was interesting along the coast where you see circular basket type boats used for fishing and through a 6280m long tunnel.  Can take the train from Danang but heard it was nothing special although it has been written up as the best in Viet Nam.   We stopped at Marble Mountain and later a restaurant near the beach.   In Hue we were picked up by Sinh Café bus in the rain with umbrella over our heads, backpacks carried to an SUV and shuffled off to the Sport Hotel all included in the $3 bus ticket.  Getting a bit used to all this attention!

The staff at the Sport Hotel were fun and noticed Steve's birthday in his passport so  asked if he had been in the war. They had uncles that served and were happy to see the Americans return.

The buffet breakfast at the hotel was always filling and healthy


Feb 29th & March 1, 2008 – Friday & Saturday – in Hue       

         To See: Bus/Boat tour booked from Sport Hotel upon arrival
                       Massive walled Citadel and Forbidden Purple Palace
                       Visit magnificent Emperor tombs from the 1800’s
                       Dragon Boat ride on Perfume River

          Cost: $10US – All day tour lunch included.  Entrance fees extra



The bridge across the Perfume River that divides the old Imperial City from the newly developed south side

*It was a packed day on the tour and the bus was packed also with travelers from all over the city.  We had an English speaking guide and started off in a bus to the Citadel and a look at the fascinating insight into Imperial Viet Nam.  We had a look at how they make incents and conical hats.  Then we were off to several Tombs of Emperors during the Nguyen Dynasty.  The tombs are set in beautiful gardens and one took some 10,000 servants 2 years to build.  After a 5 course meal we board a Dragon Boat at the beautiful Thien Mu Pagoda and cruised lazily back to town.  



The Imperial City, also known as the Citadel, is the former Imperial seat of  government and also housed the families and Emperors who ruled between 1802 to 1945.  It is a sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, museums, and surrounded by protective walls and moats.


Lavishly decorated CuaNgoMon (the Noon Gate) is the main south entrance built in 1823 and is a central door connected to bridges.  Emperor Gia Long  had the gate built and would address the people from the top.  No outsiders were allowed to enter only Imperial family members and dignitaries.





The Emperors Coronation Hall where the Emperor would sit in state to receive foreign dignitaries

A model of the Citadel with surrounding motes

The Forbidden Purple City provided housing for the concubines and were situated along the side of the main corridor of buildings

The main structure was bombed during the Vietnam War leaving only an empty field in the center of the complex


Inside the Thai Hoa Palace, built in 1833, also known at the Palace of Supreme Harmony, houses many artistic ceramics and colorful painted fascia's.


Located along the Perfume River many of the tombs date from the late 19th to the 20th centuries when Emperors were reduced from Emperors to figureheads under French colonial rule and had little else to do but build elaborate burial sites.
Tu Duc Tomb was constructed from 1864 to 1867 as sort of a second Imperial City where the Emperor could escape pressures of the court in Hue.  

Xung Khiem Pavilion was frequented by the Emperor for a place to compose poetry

A place to stroll and the enjoyment of fresh air and scenic views

A scholar and philosopher Tu Duc had this sprawling complex built around a lake with wooden pavilions and tombs dedicated to many of his 104 wives.

Khiem Tho Tomb

Tu Duc's Tomb

This is the Tomb of Empress Le Thien Anh, Emperor Tu Duc's first wife born in 1820 and died in 1902.  She was honored together with the emperor in Hoa Khiem Temple

Tu Duc's tomb is in the back of a long corridor of tombs hidden away in the final courtyard with just a modest stone coffin in the middle. 


Completed 20 years before his death in 1883 this Emperors tomb is the largest and most opulent.  The  Minh Mang tomb is widely known for it's solemnity and precise layout.  Built on 28 hectares the  tomb ensemble is surrounded with an oval protective wall of 1,700 meters and the tomb consisted of 40 architectural constructions symmetrically arranged along a 700 meter axis.
It took 10,000 servants 3 years to build

The tomb consists of three entrances namely Great Blessing Gate in the middle, Right Blessing Gate and Left Blessing Gate on either side.  On the salutation court there exist the thanh stone statues of great mandarins, along with elephants and horses representing the royal entourage that accompanies and protects the Emperor in the otherworld.  

The stele house keeps the Thanh Duc or cong stele consisting of an essay of 2,500 Chinese characters of  the Thieu Rri emperor that was carved to praise the contributions of his emperor-father Minh Mang and to describe the tomb constructing process. 

  The temple on Minh Mang Tomb complex


Dragon boat ride down the Perfume River from the Tombs to the Thien Mu Pagoda built in 1601.  The Pagoda is the official symbol of the city of Hue

Inside the Thein Mu Pagoda are relics of the past including this car which The Most Venerable Thich Quang Duc went from the pagoda to an intersection on Jun 11, 1963 in Saigon and as soon as he got out of the car sat down in the lotus position and burnt himself to death to protest against the Ngo dinh Diem regime's policies of discriminating against Buddhists and violating religious freedom

Rolling incents
Making conical hats


Having a silk blouse made for my mother.  It helps to know the size.

Fragrant scents from colorful incents waft through the temples and tomb complexes so a visit to the workshop was an added treat


Buritz and Svein with a friend

And last, while enjoying a wine in the French Chambole restaurant, in walks friends from the Norwegian s/v Fruen fra Havet that we sailed with on the Indonesia Rally.  


March 2nd  &  March 3rd  Sunday & Monday-travel day

                  Fly Viet Nam Airlines to Hanoi from Hue
                  Booked flights at Viet Nam airline head office in Saigon
                  Taxi to airport $15 as 40 min. out of town

            Cost flight $63

 Hotel:  Hong Ngoc Hotel
                95-97 Nguyen Trung in Old Quarter Ba Dinh dist. Hanoi
                PH: 84-4  716-4143
                Email: reservation@hongngochotels.com

            Cost $47 with $15 pick up at airport also 40 min out of town 

Restaurant: Green Tangerine- 48 Pho Hang Be
                       Quan An Ngon - 18 Phan Boi Chau  Hanoi 

*OK, we panicked and made this hotel reservation long ago to be sure we had a full day here and not be running around looking for a hotel although we did see another one called the Hanoi Lucky Hotel nearby for $20 that looked nice.   As for flying here we found it was three times more expensive to fly out of Saigon to KL but we enjoyed Hanoi so glad we came.

To See:  Museum of Ethnography - closed on Monday 
               Ho Chi Min Mausoleum – closed Monday but Museum open
              ‘Hanoi Hilton’ or HouLo prison
               Walk the Old Quarter
               Temple in the Lake
               Water Puppet Show – book immediately upon arrival in
                                                        office by the lake

"My ultimate wish is that our entire party and people, closely joining their efforts, will build a peaceful, reunified, independent, democratic and prosperous Vietnam, and make a worthy contribution to the world revolution." HoChiMinh's testament

Wishing to be cremated, Ho Chi Minh wanted his ashes scattered but the people chose instead to have him embalmed and in 1969 he was immortalized here as a reminder of his leadership in unifying and liberating Vietnam.

Hanoi is the rising star in SE Asia with it's fascinating blend of East and West, influenced by the Chinese and French rulers of the past.  Located in the north 1,100 miles from Saigon (HCMC)  has a population of 3.4 million  and the counties political center which remains a socialist country. 

Located on the banks of the Red River many of the merchant families who have lived here for generations still remain in the Old Quarter

Back in a big city we were overwhelmed by the motorcycle traffic which seemed to be going in every which direction.  We discovered that in order to cross a street you just slowly walk out into the traffic at a steady pace and don't stop but keep moving.  The traffic just continues on and flows around you.

The latest in shoes spilling into the sidewalks  

The latest in hair fashion but the process a bit antiquated

Most of what happens, happens on the streets so just strolling around Hanoi was a trip.

Hanoi had spring like sunny weather perfect for strolling the Old Quarter


           Sidewalk Barber Shop

Food is the epicenter of Vietnamese culture playing an important role in many events and social life.

                Quan An Ngon Restaurant

              Sidewalk cafes

A local delicacy is dog meat popular mostly in winter

Local dishes also include

Banh  Bao Choy a vegetarian dumpling
Banh Hoi Heo Quay Cuon Banh Trang - Roast pork   
             with rice vermicelli served with rice paper
             and  vegetables
Nom Lac - green papaya salad with peanuts
Nam Chom Se - Sparrow salad

Restaurant in our Hong Ngoc Hotel


Towards the end of the 19th century in an effort to contain the growth and development of popular anti-colonial movements amongst the Vietnamese community, the French government of Indochina reinforced it's apparatus of suppression by strengthening the police force, developing the court system and constructing  an extensive network of prisons.  

Opened in 1896 Hoa Lo was the largest of the French prisons in north Vietnam

Built on the site of what is believed to have been a former craft village, Hoa Lo Prison quickly became a place where thousands of patriots and revolutionary fighters were imprisoned and tortured, both physically and spiritually.  Many Vietnamese sacrificed their lives here to secure the independence and freedom of the nation

Confined for years in tiny cells with chains and leg-irons, they endured savage treatment by prison guards.  Yet despite the atrocious conditions in which they were forced to live, these brave patriots and revolutionaries maintained their dignity and high sense of purpose, turning the prison into a school for revolutionaries and staging frequent and often ingenious attempts to escape from the clutches of their oppressors.

Following the liberation of the north in October 1954, Hoa Lo became a state prison and was henceforth used to detain criminal offenders.  However, from 5 August 1964 until 31 March 1973 it was used to detain American pilots whose aircraft had been shot down over Ha Noi whilst bombing or attacking the north Vietnamese people.  It was during this period that the Americans gave Hoa Lo the nickname 'Hanoi Hilton'
Between 1964 and 1973 the prison's inmates included Senator John McCain, recent Republican nominee for President of the USA.   The conditions at that time were much improved including a basketball court and photo's of American prisoners having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner inside the prison, proving they were well treated.


Traditional Dan Boe instrument and music accompaniment

Wooden Water Puppets

The water puppet show was a traditional yearly event put on before the planting of the rice.  While the fields were flooded, stages were set up and wooden puppets were manipulated by people with long poles attached to the puppets under water and hidden behind a bamboo curtain.  These puppets told stories and fables and were a form of entertainment frolicking and splashing in the water.

New high rise housing popping up everywhere in Hanoi


New billboards for future advertising

* We did not take a tour but walked everywhere and hit all the To See places except the Ethnography museum and could not get in the Ho Chi Min’s mausoleum. The museum was ok with all Ho Chi Min’s doctrines of peace and freedom and we didn’t have to see the embalmed body.  The ‘Hotel Hilton’ was interesting and to know our American fliers including John McCain were imprisoned here.  But the best of Hanoi was the Water Puppet show in a big theater with a water stage and 2 foot high wooden puppets painted bright colors frolicking and diving in the water.  A MUST!



Our last meal was in a 1928 old French colonial house tucked away on busy street.  It was a fabulous meal in an open court yard, with shuttered windows, mood lighting and it only set us back $27. 


Green Tangerine

Our last view of Hanoi and Vietnam was out of the taxi window on the way to the airport in the early morning hours watching Tai Chi and the sunrise over the Red River


March 4, 2008 – Tuesday- travel day

           Fly Air Asia  Hanoi to K.L.

               Cost:  $95 each  $15 taxi

           Fly Air Asia KL to Langkawi

               Cost:  $17 each  $6.60US taxi airport to Telaga Marina


We wish we had more time where we could stay longer, travel more leisurely and not have to fly.  Those taxi rides to and from the airports are budget killers.  We did find the Sinh Café’s in Viet Nam well worth using to book buses, taxi’s, hotels and tours as the Cafes were in the tourist area’s and part of the system of hotels we were delivered to.    It is possible to save a bit on some hotels by just using their buses and finding your own hotels.  Usually the Sinh cafes are near the areas you want to stay.  

What we would have done different is taken 4 weeks instead of 3, taken the 3 day 2 night tour in the Mekong Delta, used only trains and buses even getting to Cambodia and leaving Viet Nam.   There is a train from Hanoi to China and travelers were headed for Laos from there also.   Travel possibilities in Asia now are cheap, safe, exciting and limitless.  What are you waiting for!!!!

Remember:  It is the journey, not the destination that matters!!