This part of the trip was along with the drive through the highlands my favorite in Vietnam.
Hoi An is a historical town which was little affected by the war in contrast to Hue. It used to be a major harbor in the area until Danang became larger and more modern. There are many old buldings and a famous bridge, built by the Japanese in about 1600. We enjoyed rides in bicycle buggies and the highlight for me was a class in Vietnamese cooking in a very good local restaurant. Unfortunately Vickie missed it that day because of some not so uncommon tourist ailment.
On another day we organized a trip to My Son (pronounced "me son"), a Cham site, very similar to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. This was basically a Hindu dominated empire that reached from India all the way to Vietnam. From My Son we took a river trip back to Hoi An.
Trip over a beautiful mountain pass on the coast - again in a private car!
From Hoi an via Da Nang is not a very long distance but leads through a gorgeous coastal area. Between Da Nang and Hue is a mountain pass with great views of hills and the ocean. Unfortunately the modern need for fast highways prompted the government to build a tunnel through the mountains which does not offer any kind of sights. So the solution was to hire a car and head over the Hai Van pass.
On the way we drove through the marble mountains, which today are no longer exploited but the local town still has some leftovers and produces all kinds of souvenirs.
In Da Nang (does anybody remember the name from the Vietnam war?) has a large Cham museum with many of the statues and sculptures from My Son.
Later in the afternoon, after a lunch in a beach resort, we arrived in Hue. Hue is the old imperial city and was also a major French colonial site. Unfortunately it suffered greatly during the Vietnam war though much of it has been rehabilitated in the meantime. It is here, where so many people suffered greatly from the war, that I became aware of the Vietnamese ability to forget about the past and be content with the present.
From Hue we flew to Hanoi. This is a fairly long stretch (about the same distance as from Saigon) with apparently not too many interesting sites.
In Hanoi, Vickie's friend Jim picked us up and was our tour guide and companion for our stay. We stayed at another Sinh Hotel, the Hong Ngoc in the old city, a very busy place.
I have not yet mentioned how cheaply we lived in Vietnam. A stay in a hotel was usually between $ 20 and 30 a night for the two of us. Rooms were comfortable with private bath and of course fancy TVs. And.... to my surprise and in contrast to the marina in Singapore, excellent internet connection. For meals we almost never spent much, perhaps between two and five dollars per meal. Taxis and other transportation is also not expensive. So, it is a trip a person on a limited income can easily afford.
A lively city with lots of traffic and no crosswalks!
With the help of Jim and his wife we explored the sites such as The temple of Literature (actually the Confucian University), the Ethnic museum, the Ho Chi Minh museum and a walk by the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. During this trip I also learned a lot about Ho Chi Minh, a person who was quite different from the image we got fed during the war. The mausoleum is part of the misconception we have. He was basically a very modest person who certainly never wanted a mausoleum: he had requested that his dead body be cremated and the ashes thrown into the sea!!! I hope he does not see the long lines of people who wait to go and see his mummy!!!
A landscape (seascape) which reminded me of the mountains in Guilin, China
From Hanoi we took the "compulsory" side trip to Ha Long Bay, a very famous and much visited area on the coast of North Vietnam.
Unfortunately the weather was not as sunny and cloudless as you often see in pictures but it was nevertheless a beautiful overnight outing on a local barge with great facilities and excellent food.
We arranged for the customary overnight trip. firsst there is a three hour drive from Hanoi to the coast and then the overnight excursion through the scenic islands on an indigenous barge. There is lots of traffic but luckiy all the boats are of the traditional type which makes the whole scene look much more authentic. On the boat we had a fabulous dinner and even a karaoke entertai nment.
The whole out with its stopover at islands and caves was a great ending to a fabulous three week trip.
Here is a short update! During the month of February I have experienced and participated in the Chinese New Year's celebrations in Singapore. First of course I cleaned, in true Chinese fashion, my boat, paid my bills and got ready for the year of the Tiger! On new year's eve I was invited to a family dinner with the traditional Chinese Lao Yu Shen dish. This is a mixture of noodles, seafood, vegetables and sauces. it is all on a big plate on the middle of the table. Everybody gets up and tosses the food with their chopsticks high into the air and mixes it. The result was fantastic and I am going to get the recipe for next year. In Singapore one can buy all the ingredients in one package... well I am not sure whether I will still be here.
After this initial dish, we indulged in al Chinese banquet with lots of dishes. My eternal question is: how come the Chinese in general are so skinny, particularly the young ones and children!
Singapore during the two week holiday season is somewhat chaotic, particularly in the shopping centers. One of the big events I attended was the "Chingay" parade at the Pit building parade grounds. It was fabulous and for your vicarious enjoyment I attach both a small movie.
As for the next couple of months I have changed my plans: instead of sailing to Borneo I will take a land-trip from April 7-29 to Vietnam. I am flying with my friend Vicky to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and then travel up the coast to Hanoi and fly back from there. I hope to share my pictures and impressions with you in my next blog entry.
Have a good year of the Tiger!
XMAS LIGHTS ON ORCHARD STREET IN SINGAPORE
Time flies! I cannot believe that it is already Christmas again and a new Year is around the corner. I guess the older one gets, the faster the time flies by!
I have been around this part of the world already more than a year and still enjoy it! I really like Singapore, it is a city that offers a lot - concerts, theatres, museums, beautiful parks and particularly my favorite, the botanical gardens. I still have not seen everything and plan a "tourist" month in January to explore all that is still a mystery to me.
As I told you in my last blog, I have got busy with an organization that has for its goal to replicate a kind of On Lok. In view of this I have visited a lot of elderly in their homes, have seen nursing homes, special elderly housing, day care centers etc. etc. Not only am I getting very familiar with the lifestyle of the Singaporeans but I am also making lots of new friends. Well not exactly the usual lifestyle of an 81 year old but I enjoy it and it keeps me going. But inspite of all these land based pleasures, I am still very happy to live on the boat and I have a hard time considering a sedentary life style in Hawaii yet!
I am planning a summer trip to Borneo, Malaysian Sarawak and Sabah and the kingdom of Brunei. I found some people who would like to come with me, so it might become a reality after I haul the boat for the usual bottom work and checkup. But things are never certain with me but planning is fun.
I hope you are all well and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and above all a happy and successful New Year!