April 1st to 15th 2017
Friday, March 31st
Here we go again. Train to Copenhagen – and sleeping at WakeUp. Now I am settled.
Saturday, April 1st
6 hours flight to Dubai. 2 movies and a delicious meal. Comfortable. Airbus 380.
Sunday, April 2nd
From Dubai, it’s a 9 hour flight – including a stopover in Rangoon – to Hanoi. You get there at 4 pm. My private car is ready to take me to O’Gallery’s Premier Hotel in Old Quarter. Hanoi is hectic. 4 people on a motorbike is common. 2 kids – 2 adults. The youngest standing up in front. I get a reception at the hotel as it’s the King visiting. People open the doors and carry my luggage. Room 602 is great. Everything you need – including flowers all over the bed. Time for a shower – clan the bed – and a nap. Dinner at the hotel.
Monday, April 3rd
First day as a tourist. A fine one. 25 degrees. Excellent for a big city. Start by going to my travel agency to pay for my trip to Halong Bay. Then an ATM. Get 3 mio. Dong. No problem to be a millionaire here. Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake. Locals and tourists are doing it. Fine red The Huc Bridge to Ngoc Son Temple. On to the Old Quarter. This is the most famous “sight” in Hanoi. No traditional sights – just lots of people, old houses, motorcycles, street kitchens etc. I can try the art of crossing the street. No signals – just do it – but do it with confidence – as they say. Very exciting. Then back to the Hotel for a break.
Trip 2 in the busy streets. Most pavements are either one big hole, full of motorbikes or there are a tree in the middle. Easier to walk on the street. Trip target is Hoa Lo Prison – aka Hanoi Hilton from the American War. John McCain was a prisoner. But the main focus is on Vietnamese prisoners during the French occupation. Then back home on the busy streets. Relax and dinner at the hotel.
Tuesday, April 4th
Jetlag. Always happens on the second day. Go to sleep late – wake up late, but just in time to reach breakfast before 10 am.
Nice weather again. Cloudy. 25 degrees. Start by walking to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Really – he wasn’t into this kind of thing – but he was dead – and couldn’t complain. But he closes at 11, so I am late to see his corps lying inside. No worries. I stick to the building from outside. Also, a look at One Pillar Pagoda next door. Made by Emperor Ly Thai Tong around 1040. Then on through the streets to The Litterature Temple. Build to honor poets and teachers. Maybe that’s why a group of students are gathered here on their last day of school, taking pictures in fine uniforms with nice red diplomas. They look so proud. Back home on the side of the busy streets. Pavements are impossible.
After break at hotel one more trip to crazy Old Quarter. The most entertaining you can do in Hanoi is stand on a corner and watch the traffic. The most exciting thing you can do is cross the road. But I do get some routine in the latter – and even small kids do it. At least I can return safely to my hotel.
Dinner is a Binh Ma – a local delicious Sandwich – from a bar on the other side of the street. 30.000 Dong – about 1,50 $. Cheap and good.
Wednesday, April 5th
2-day trip to the top tourist-sight in Vietnam – Halong Bay. Leaving hotel at 8.30. Arriving Halong 12.30 and ready for departure with Carina Cruise. Halong Bay is a group of limestonecliffs in the bay. Very spectacular and nice. There are loads of tourist. Almost as many boats as there are motorbikes in Hanoi. Visit to a cave Hang Sung Sot. Food on board is fantastic. 9 course lunch and dinner. Company is ok, views are fantastic and the guide Peter is a fool. Sleeping in a cabin on the boat – among probably 100 others.
Thursday, April 6th
Excellent sleep on the boat. Maybe because I am tired. Get up at 7 for great breakfast. Then a trip to Hang Luon. It’s a grotto only accessible at low tide. Inside there are monkeys on the cliffs. Back to Carina. Now we are heading home. Views are best enjoyed from the top deck. I skip the “cooking class” – prefer the views. Lunch just before arrival in Halong at noon. Then a 5-hour crazy bus ride back to Hanoi.
The King arrive back at the hotel at 5. A Bellboy and a Hostess storms to great me at arrival. Bellboy to carry my small bagpack. Hostess to check me in to room 707. Rest of the luggage has arrived to the room. My only job is to clean the bed for flowers – again. Dinner in the restaurant. Pho – a local soup with noodles and chicken. Delicious, but I am not good with the chop sticks. The waiter tries to teach me – unsuccessful.
Friday, April 7th
Final day in Hanoi. Nice and easy. Morningwalk through Old Quarter. No special sights. Just local life. That’s the fun thing in Hanoi. Lots of offers from vendors, and about bike-rides in the center. I kindly refuse. That’s ok – they are not aggressive.
Afternoon in the theater – a puppettheater – even a waterpuppettheater. The puppets are controlled by sticks through water. This is an old Vietnamese artform. About 1.000 years old. Invented in the rice fields. I don’t get any of the story. The music is – for a westener – special. All in all pretty strange. Café after the show. Then it starts to rain a little. I head back to hotel.
They have taken care of my boarding-card at the hotel. Friendly people. I don’t think I have ever stayed at a place with so serviceminded employees.
Saturday, April 8th
Exit hectic Hanoi. My stay at O’gallery ends in style. There’s a present when I leave. A Vietnamese coffee making thing.
Private driver to the airport. Vietnam Airlines at 10.30. One hour to Da Nang. Private driver to Nhi Nhi Hotel in Hoi An.
Hoi An is a very old culture city in the middle of Vietnam. Lots of old houses, temples and small museums. Lots of tourists as well. Lots of café’s and restaurants too. Good place for a stop over between busy Hanoi and Saigon. A little relaxation at the hotel, and then to Downtown. Temperature has risen 5-10 degrees. Just on the hot side for me. 35 degrees. I check out a few temples. Pineapple-smoothie at a café for the heat. At 5 I head back to the hotel. Shower and expecting to dine in the restaurant. But it is closed. I head back to downtown. Never mind. I find a nice place. Pumpkin soup, rice, meat, local beer – 10 $. And that’s even pricey.
Sunday, April 9th
Of all stupid things I have ever done – this must be the worst. My alarm clock rings at 4.30. At 4.45 I am ready in the hotel lobby for a tour. Hoi An Photo Tours start this early to capture the morning light. 12 other stupid people on the tour. Photogeeks all of them – more or less. In this company I am less. The trip takes us to a fishing-village outside Hoi An. The boat comes in this early from the nights fishing. Makes for excellent photo opportunities. Women from the markets buy directly from the boats. Pretty hectic.
Photo opportunities are endless. Etienne – the guide – helps us if we want to – or leaves us alone if we prefer. We walk around for an hour or so. Then we head for a local market, get breakfast, go to a place producing fish sauce the old fashioned way. You take a lot of anchovies – mix them with salt – let it stand for a year – and it’s done. Nice smell by the way. Then on to a place where they make the most delicious cookies with black beans. Finally down to the village again, and watching a place where they fix the boats and visiting a 84 year old gentleman who is in charge of producing the bamboo-sticks they use for carrying things. All in all – an excellent tour. Back at 9.30. Just in time for second breakfast at the hotel.
This calls for a serious time of relaxation. It’s about 5 pm before I head into Hoi An Old Quarter again. The Old Quarter has it’s part of souvenir-shops, Chinese tour-groups, other tourgroups transported on tourist friendly rickshaws by older local men etc. But heading down to the market and into the small alleys it’s a very nice place. Dinner at my restaurant for the 2nd time. Then back to the hotel. Wifi is fine, so you can watch Sherlock Holmes on Netflix.
Monday, April 10th
Another hot day in Hoi An. 2 walks in central Hoi An. Tour 1 through the small streets and alleys. No place for the rickshaws. Therefore – not so many tourists. More fun – and you can look into the homes of the people who live here.
Tour 2 is more conventional. Through the 3 main tourist-streets of the center. Some pitstops for pineapple juice. Taste great and costs almost nothing. Dinner at the hotel. 7 $.
Tuesday, April 11th
Goodbye to slightly run down Nhi Nhi in Hoi An. Excellent breakfast though. Private driver to Da Nang airport, and then one hour to Ho Chi Minh City – or Saigon as we used to know it. Here there’s another private driver. You get used to some standard. He drives me to luxurious Hotel Continental in Downtown – or sector 1 as they call it There is even an upgrade at the hotel. Room 212 is huge, with a sitting room overlooking the Opera. Unpacking – dinner at a local place – tickets for Mekong Trip – and a couple of mio. from an ATM. Then a break at the hotel, before an evening visit to Bitexpo Financial Tower – a viewing platform in Saigon. I was hoping for a perfect sunset, but the haze over Saigon say no. Saigon is very different from Hanoi. Yes – there are motorbikes and heavy traffic. But Saigon is way more westerly with office-buildings in glass and steel and shopping-malls. No such thing in Hanoi. They also have a modern pedestrian street with fountains and colored light. Amazing that the 2 big cities in Vietnam can be so different. Dinner at a local. By mistake I try the sauce they brought with it. That was hot – very hot. Then back to the hotel, my fine chair and my view to the Opera.
Wednesday, April 12th
I get up at 7 for another great breakfast. Everything you need – and lots of fresh fruit from the morning.
It’s time for a tour today. A Mekong Delta tour. First 3 hours on a bus to Cai Be. Then we board a Sampan. We pass a closed floating market, get off the boat, walk an open land market. Back to the boat. Next stop – an island in the Delta. Here they make candy of coconuts. Surprisingly good. Back on board. More sailing. Another island. Lunch-time. Great fish. Then you can choose between a bike and a hammock. My choice is obvious. Back on board again. Back to Cai Be, back to the bus, back to Saigon. Back at 6 pm. Sounds a little to touristic, but the trip was fine and exiting – and you do get a chance to see how people are living in the Delta. Very poor – compared to the rich part of Saigon.
I need western food tonight. No problem in Saigon. Just a little more expensive. But my burger is fine.
Thursday, April 13th
Another great breakfast to start the day.
Then a walk to the War Remnants Museum. It’s about The American War. Lots of very unpleasant photos on the wall – but I guess the war in general was unpleasant. Vietnam is of course seen as the victim. There are also some airplanes and tanks taken from the Americans. Very harsh place – but a place you have to see. Then back to the hotel.
Short afternoon walk for lunch. Also a visit to super modern shopping mall Vincom Center. This is like Paris or New York. Uncle Ho would turn around in his grave if he saw it. The contrast to the fishing huts down in Cai Be is extreme.
Then there is only the evening walk back. This takes me to the old Post Office in Saigon. Uncle Ho is hanging on the wall, overlooking everything. On the other side is the Notre Dame church – the largest in Saigon – and a reminder of the French past. Nice dinner in Vincom Center. There’s a fine food-hall in the basement. Everything from Asia is available. My restaurant is Korean. A little shopping in the supermarket. I have to bring some Vietnamese coffee back home.
Friday, April 14th
Lazy day today. Breakfast at the hotel, walk around town, Banh Mi for lunch, Sherlock on Netflix, old football games on the TV, Pizza for dinner, James Ellroy for book.
Satuday, April 15th
Not the smartest end to a trip. My flight leaves at midnight, and they kick me out of the hotel at noon. Not so nice when the temperature is 36 degrees. But it’s ok windy – so it’s bearable. More you do need a few pitstops. I spend the day by taking a look at The Independence Palace in Saigon. This was where the south Vietnamese leaders was staying, and as Uncle Ho and his friend got here the war was over. It’s very exiting and you can walk around pretty freely. You can also visit the bunkers underneath. Lot’s of communication equipment – and a shooting range.
Time for a break and a pineapple juice. Then a walk in the small park Tao Dan. No action this afternoon. It’s hot now so I head for Vincom Center – and the air-condition. Movie time. Fast & Furious 8. Probably the worst movie I have ever seen – but the temperature was fine. Dinner in the basement. Back to Hotel. Pick up at 8 for the airport.
Sunday, April 16th
Leaving with Emirates shortly after midnight. Cramped flight. I do get to sleep reasonably on the trip to Dubai. 3 hours of waiting here. Stretch my legs and do some shopping. Back on A380 to Copenhagen. More room here. Great food and great entertainment. La La Land and a documentary about a jockey. Arrival in Copenhagen at 1. To the railway station – train back home – Aarhus at 6. Lovely trip – nice to be back home – but it’s pretty cold.