Tag Archives: Vietnam

Hoi An . . . in the top three

Hi Everyone,

This lovely town on the coast of Vietnam (and about a 45-minute drive south of Da Nang) is a shopper’s paradise. Yes, a shopper’s paradise. “Isn’t practically all of SE Asia a shopper’s paradise?” you ask.

Well, yes it is! For most travelers. Though there is so much more to do than just shop.

But this particular town is known for its vast collection of tailors. Yes, tailors. People from all over the world were having custom clothing made: suits, dresses, skirts, shoes, etc. (Yes, even shoes!)

But for moi, I just didn’t feel like having anything custom-made. I’m nearly at the end of my 5-month journey in SE Asia, and I have plenty of souvenirs already. And I have plenty of clothing.

Also, I think that’s an activity that would be more fun to do with a friend (yes, Mom, I agree with you on this one : ).

So what did I do?

I walked around the quaint town in the evening. (It became much more interesting when the sun began to set.)

It was pouring and pouring on my first full-day there; so I hung out in my comfy room and got caught up on things. AND I swam in that fabulous pool. Fortunately, it wasn’t thundering and lightning (like it is now in Bangkok where I’m currently sitting and typing).

When I got hungry, I walked a short distance and found a cozy restaurant with a nice mix of decor (honestly, it felt more European than Asian) where I broke my no-chicken eating and had Pho with da kine (noodle soup). It was the perfect dish for a cool, wet day.

And the second day? The sun was shinning, so I rented a bike and found the beach (and even got a little sun burned on my shoulders : ).

For enjoying Hoi An as much as I did, I took very few pictures (another sign that this leg of my journey is winding down).

So, without further ado . . .


These are some of the most unusual boats I’ve ever seen! They reminded me of big rice cups. And yes, I helped carry the second one up the beach.
What’s that for ???
Right in town was a rice paddy.
A sample of the clothing that one can have made in Hoi An.

And oh, I forgot to mention, I just happened to be in Hoi An on the one day of the month when they hang lanterns everywhere (and coincidentally, the last night of my solo journey before joining my friend in Bangkok) in honor of the full moon which appears the following night. I left my room a little before sunset to walk around town. Along the way, I saw vendor after vendor setting up a personal altar in front of their shop. Soon, women were selling small lanterns to the tourists, as well as cooking potato, banana, coconut things. (I  tried part of one; it was okay, a bit bland.)

When the activity seemed to be at its peak, I parked myself at a table for one, ordered fried noodles and veggies and a glass of the local merlotish red wine, and enjoyed the show! “Perfect!” I thought as I sat and sipped . . . “Perfect. Thank you Hoi An. Thank you . . .”


Hue, Vietnam, pronounced like curds and . . .

From Ha Noi I flew to Hue. It’s a small town a bit north of Danang (which was an important in the Vietnam, or American, war).

Stayed there 2-nights, and this is what I saw/did . . .

Taken from a boat.
This boat. The lady came running beside me, “Come on boat; come on boat. Only . . .”(about $5) But I’m hungry and am going to eat. “I can cook for you.” For the same price? “Yes.” Talk about feeling like a cheap American! But you (I) never know what’s a fair price for them and what’s a rip-off for a tourist (me). I hopped on the boat; they immediately drove the boat to the other shore (so that she could go to the market for food.)
Their son.
The grinds. Noodles with morning glory (greens). And an omelette with onion. Not too bad. I was hungry.
The next morning I rented a bike and took off to find a place for breakfast. But first, I was led down an alleyway to where I found a “locals only” café. On the river. With HBO on the muted television and jazz on the sound system. “Nice,” I thought. I had a deep rich coffee with thick condensed milk (for a fraction of what it was in the restaurants for westerners). And, I had conversation. Lots of it. With these two girls. When I could tell that they were dying to speak English with me, I invited them to join me at the table. Occasionally they had to hop up to work, but soon they’d plop back down for a bit more of this and that. Who are they? They’re both 21-year old university students studying agriculture. We exchanged emails . . .
And after breakfast it was time to head off and find the pagoda which was about 3 km away from the town’s main attraction: a citadel.
But first, a stop at the local grocery store.
Talk about a large selection of rice cookers!
You can read about this car . . .
“Why in the heck did you take a picture of this toilet, SJ? And why include it in your glob?” Notice the shoe prints? Yes, someone stood on it and then used it . . . There are stand-on types of toilets in SE Asia that are raised to about the same height as our sit-on® type . . . reckon the last user preferred to stand. Much more sanitary, don’t you think?
The monks don’t appear to wear saffron robes in Vietnam. They were moving stacks of wood from the back of the truck onto the other side of the fence.
This looks a lot like the boat I took a ride on the afternoon before.
School kids’ bikes.
Having a PE class of some type. “HI!!!” they were waving.
And now to the main attraction in the town of Hue.
It felt a bit like an Angkorwatwannabe.
The costume storage room.
Hey, what’s he doing here?
Back to the lovely hotel room to find the next place to rest my head (was looking for a place in Hoi An with a pool . . . my budget? $30 and below, found one for exactly $30). How much did the room in Hue cost? $15. That’s with air con, a TV, and a private balcony. The one I’d originally booked was $12; I figured it was worth 6 bucks extra to have a lanai for 2-nights. : )
Oh, what a wonderful dinner it was! I’d read about this restaurant in my Lonely Planet guide book, and then I just happened to pass it . . . and when I was hungry and looking for a restaurant!
The restaurant staff was watching Vietnam Idol.
Time to leave some more things behind. First, my skirt (the one I was wearing when I was riding the elephant, I just couldn’t stand to wear it one moment longer). It’s somewhere in Laos. Second, my purple purse. It’s somewhere in Northern Vietnam. Remember? I gave it to the little girl I bought my new purse from. Next, these two shirts. May they continue to have exciting journeys as they venture forth into their brave new world. (Yes, I agree, rather dramatic for a couple of well worn shirts!)
We were the first picked up for the four hour and four dollar bus ride to Hoi An. We chose the front seat, plenty of room to keep all my bags with me. “Brave to ride up there!” an Irish woman who’s lived in Australia for 10-years said to me. “Why?” I asked. “You’ve seen how they drive here!” “But it’s not as bad as in Cambodia,” her husband added. And I agreed, the bus driving was a bit (a bit) more mellow that what I’d experienced in Cambodia.
Leftovers. Made a perfect breakfast!
Stopping for road work.
We had a 30-minute break mid-way.
Happy Feet. Happy Bat Angel. Its first time on the beach!

It was a lovely 2-nights in Hue. Next came another of my favorite SE Asia towns . . .

Catch you soon on SJ’s bat angel channel.



Hanoi at a quick glance

I only stayed one night in Hanoi . . . it warrants a longer visit.

Another time!

I found a nice hotel room with a little balcony overlooking the street.
The view.
The church. Locked up for now.
I just liked how that moto was rigged.
Found one Larry! But I was too full to have a taste.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
Leading to the Jade Island (on the northern end of the lake).
A common site in SE Asia (outside temples and at private altars).
Thinking of you, Teri!
Not sure what those ball things were.
Went to the 5 p.m. show after arriving at 4:15 ! Thanks for the tip, Jane.
Didn’t buy one . . .
So many Vietnamese children are eager to practice their English.
A touch of Hawaii.

And that’s all of Hanoi.

It’s an amazingly vibrant (i.e. busy) city.
I arrived there first on the 29th of September, just in time to share a minivan from the airport into the old city with 9 other travelers (and meet the connection for the night train to Sapa).
Next, I arrived early one morning by train. How early? Around 4:45 a.m.! Yep, that’s early! The nice and quiet German family (with whom I shared the compartment) didn’t disturb me in my sleep. When I got up and looked outside (as they quietly whispered and took their time collecting their things), I saw that practically everyone had left the train! I grabbed my two backpacks and handbag and made like a banana. Rather than a taxi, I decided to take a moto (scooter) to the street where I was to be at 8 a.m. for the trip to Ha Long Bay. Almost nothing was open! But thank goodness it was only almost; I spied a hostel on the same narrow road in the old city that looked open. As I was giving my *20,000 Vietnamese Dong (yes, Dan, you read that right) to the driver, I heard a voice call out, “So you decided to take a moto!?!” It was the husband of the nice Israeli couple I had shared the train compartment with on the way to Sapa, and with whom I had hiked one of the two days.
“What are you guys doing here?”
“We’re checking in to this hotel.” (There was a nice hotel adjacent to the hostel.)
Cool! After I stowed my bags with their luggage, we three took off on a short walk to the lake; together we eyed the many people exercising–even saw a group doing laugh yoga! They lingered, and I headed on to my rendezvous for Ha Long Bay.

Ha Long Bay . . . for you *Larry! : )

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

“Ha Long Bay (Vietnamese: About this sound Vịnh Hạ Long (help·info), literally: “descending dragon bay”; 下龍灣) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, located in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam. Administratively, the bay belongs to Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town, and part of Van Don district. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Hạ Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà islands to the southwest. These larger zones share similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate, and cultural characters.”
Okay, nuff with the words, here are SJ’s pictures . . .
She was working! And not just at rowing.
Floating village.
It often felt like they were driving these things for the first time!
They passed that baby along like a sack of potatoes! lol And the kid seems just fine with it. Nice. ; )
We didn’t have a lot of sun . . . but for this instance we did!
Another working gal. Only saw women drivers.
Had 30-minutes at this man-made beach, made a running dash up the hill. That’s the boat I stayed on.
Nice Danish family hanging out while it rained.
Going on a tour of the “floating village.”
Driver in training.
Ma chambre. See my bat/angel?
Pretty sunset one of the 2-nights that I was on the boat.
The moon!
The ubiquitous flag in Vietnam.
These kids from New Zealand were having fun; he’s teaching her how to fold the napkin. How’d he learn? A Vietnamese worker on the ship showed him one rainy afternoon.
In front: my new gal pals from London, Emma and Jane. Had dinner with them one night in Hoi An. In back: Nat and Gerry. Was supposed to have dinner with them one night in  Hanoi, but I went to the wrong restaurant! But, I just happened to run into them the next day while passing the church shown above . . . yep, keep loving those “coincidences”!
Ze “floating village.”
Pretty cool.
Well protected.
He’s taking a shot of the school.
They seemed happy as they looked my way.
Back at the industrial harbor.

Aloha Ha Long Bay!

Hope it brought back good memories Larry!

So long from the Hanoi airport enroute to Bangkok.

Sending love to all of you wherever you may be.


* and Kay!

Sapa, Vietnam highlights

Ever heard of Sapa?

I hadn’t. Not until the first two volunteers I met at FLO told me about it.
“So what’s been one of your favorite places to travel to in Vietnam?”
“Sapa,” they replied in union, “Yes, definitely Sapa.”
And then the physically smaller of the two–who btw Rick, the cameraman, loved to call the troll . . . : ); the other young lady was nicknamed the giant . . .; yeah, they made a great pair–she, the troll, started talking a mile a minute about the nice Hmong lady who guided them on their hike had told them all about the area. “It’s so beautiful!” she continued.
“Hmm, Sapa,” I thought to myself. “Maybe I should make that happen . . .”
And I did. The following shots have been chosen from a long list of shots; the task of editing these down was the hardest thus far. I took so m a n y amazing shots! It’s easy to do in Sapa; it really is breathtaking there.
“Where is Sapa?” you ask.
In Northern Vietnam, close to the border with China. I took a night train from Hanoi. The train left that busy city around 9 p.m., and by 6 a.m. I was in a minivan with lots of other tourists heading along the narrow road to Sapa. About 45-minutes later I arrived in that cute mountain town. (My first thought upon entering Sapa? “It’s the Gatlinburg of SE Asia!”)
I shared the cabin with a lovely couple from Israel and a young Aussie girl; the rest of her family was next door.
Water buffalo are e ve r y w h e r e in Vietnam! (even on busy highways!)
She was working in a practically black chamber with only the light coming in from the open door to work by.
Locals hanging out in one of the villages we trekked (i.e. hiked) through.
“It looks like Tuscany,” the beauiful Israeli woman said; “Yes, it does,” I replied. (Have I ever been to Tuscany? No, but I’ve seen movies. : )
We have a few of these flowers growing by Rocket Girl’s house.
This guy had the biggest darn teeth! He seemed to love showing them to us.
A cute, shy girl with a Tigger umbrella who didn’t know any English. “Okay,” she said to the request to take her picture. (At least that’s what the guide told me she said.)
Lunch break. We ate upstairs in a house used for “home stays.” Our guide had brought food which was cooked there by the family. It was good: Pho (noodle soup) made with water buffalo meat. No, I hadn’t eaten any red meat in ages, but figured I’d give it a try; it was okay, a bit tough. Two bites was enough. But the noodles and broth was yummy!
Their “job” is to follow tourists as they walk on their trek. These ladies had left their village early in the morning; they were returning home (as they walked beside/behind us). And why do they do this? To sell something to us, that’s why! There seems to be a “rule” that they have to wait till the end for their sales pitch. “Where are you from?” they love to ask as we walk along. “The moon!” was my standard reply. “I’ve come down to earth to see how you live; it’s nice!” The gal on the right “tagged” me; I bought two bags that are earmarked for my sister Hannah. I figure she can use the design in a quilt maybe, or not, up to her.
We walked up hills and down to dales . . . and yes, over bridges.
This guy looked up. I waved. “You’ll have to marry him now!” the guide said. “Oh really?” I asked. No worries Tones, I kept walking. : )
I bought the purse I’m wearing from the young gal on my left; her mom made it. AND, I gave her my purple purse which I’d been carrying for 4.5 months. I was thinking that I’d leave it in the hotel room (like I’ve been slowly doing with lots of my clothing), and then thought, “Why not just give it to her?” She seemed jazzed. (It was cold in Sapa; that’s a new jacket I’m wearing . . . )
Vietnamese scarecrows.
Yes, they were literally right with us the entire trek.
How long of a walk? you ask. About 5-hours. We left at 9:30 a.m. and were back around 4:00 (after having about an hour lunch break). A van picked us up for the 12 – 16 km or so return. I hiked two days in a row.
These guys were assembling a building.
My last day in Sapa I went to a village which only happens on Sunday. Thought of you Marcie!
The mountain villagers come from all over to buy and sell at this market.
That puppy was so cute; I hope he wasn’t “marked” to be sold for food . . . it’s all part of the market. : (
Locals dining.
 Locals shopping . . . and getting their hair cut.
This person was returning from a day working in China.
We stopped at the border for a look.
OMG, I hope that’s not what I ate in Luang Prabang! This was at the market outside the train station; we had a few hours to “kill” in this arm pit of a town (like all areas around train stations and bus depots the world over).
Oh . . . being in Vietnam is making it easier and easier to not eat meat; these guys wanted out of their cage so very badly!

Okay den, Aloha everyone. Until we meet again.

though this was posted on Monday, October 10th in Vietnam (Hoi An), I realize that it shows October 9th (the date in Hawaii).

Right now, as I type, my husband of 25-years is throwing himself a bash of a party in Kokee, Kaua‘i.

Happy Birthday Tones!
May you have many, many more healthy and happy birthdays!

Sat nam.