Hanoi and cold

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Siem Reap – Hanoi

We have a relaxed morning as our check out at 12:30pm and then we have a couple of hours before travelling to the airport. Some of the group are off shopping, others take in a massage and I catch up on some book work.

During our tour and within our group, in order not to be fussing over who owes what for drinks or for meals at restaurants and waiting for each to get small change back, I act as a banker recording each person's choice and pay the restaurant account in one bill as well as tipping the boat people, drivers and guides. Receipts are reconciled with my records and every few days, each member of the group settles their account with the banker.

Due to the devastating floods back home in Brisbane, one of our group elects to return home when we reach Hanoi. I have arranged with my Vietnamese contact all her flights.

We were fortunate to have on tour another lady whose parents lived close to our tour member wishing to return home due to rising flood levels, so with several phone calls to arrange keys etc, the parents were able to go to the home and move all from downstairs to upstairs hopefully out of harm’s way. This of course somewhat put our traveller’s mind at ease  

After lunch at our hotel we move to the airport for boarding of our flight to Hanoi at 5:35pm. Arriving at Hanoi airport we are greeted by good friend and guide of Northern Vietnam 'Nguyen’ who is then introduced to our tour group.

Hanoi, located on the banks of the Red River, is a marvellous city with over eight million people and four – five million motor bikes. I certainly enjoy returning and renewing acquaintances.

We check in to the Galaxy Hotel, which is right on the fringe of the ‘Old Quarter’ in Hanoi.

We are very quickly back on the streets searching for warm jackets as the temperature has dropped considerably to what we were experiencing in Siem Reap. It is down to 10 degrees C.

This tour is quite different to my normal tours, for I will not travel with the group during the most of two days in Hanoi.

I have arranged another guide who will pick the group up in the morning and take them on a ‘cyclo ride’ through the ‘old quarter ‘of Hanoi near the Hoan Kiem Lake. This area was initially of thirty six streets (now expanded), each named after the produce, craft sold or practiced within that street.

It buzzes with activity, commerce, tourists and is rich in scents.

The group will then visit the ‘Red Bridge’, the Temple of Literature and Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Hanoi. Following this they will see a performance of the famous Hanoi Water Puppets before some having dinner at the ‘Little Hanoi’.  Other members of the group after the puppet performance will have dinner with Nguyen and me at his home with Nguyen’s family and the Hanoi manager of Sun n’ Sea Travel.  

The following morning we bid farewell to another two of our group who reluctantly have to return to Brisbane for the commencement of the new school year. The rest of the group, along with our other guide go shopping for more warm clothes as we are advised that our next destination in the mountains is currently at zero degrees Celsius.

During the two days whilst the group are being shown Hanoi, Nguyen and I attend meetings previously arranged for me by the Vietnamese Consular General in Sydney, Australia.

These meetings were arranged to discuss the production of my next two books in Vietnam, one of which the Consular General has already written the Foreword.

In the morning of the first day I meet with the Deputy Director and the Director, Editor in Chief of ‘The Gioi Publishers’, one of Vietnam’s  Government Book Publishers and later that afternoon I meet with the Deputy Director, Press and Information Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Here we discuss not only my books but the possibility of establishing ties between photographic societies/associations in both Vietnam and Queensland, possibly with a future exchange of photographic exhibitions between the two countries.

In the morning of the following day, Nguyen and I meet with the Deputy Manager, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Here we discuss books and budgeted projects currently or proposed to which I can contribute.

I am deeply indebted to the Vietnamese Consulate General in Sydney, first for being a friend and secondly for arranging such meetings

The remaining group, Nguyen and I get back together in the afternoon of the second day (Friday), visit the Museum of Ethnology, walk through very beautiful and interesting narrow streets surrounding the pool (usually full of water but now being restored) where the remains of a B52 bomber lies that was shot down during the American conflict. We have dinner and prepare ourselves for our overnight train ride from Hanoi then north to Lao Cai on the Chinese border.
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