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Showing posts from February 10, 2013

Visiting Uncle Ho and other matters

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Whenever I got to a new place by plane or train "someone" would be there to greet me with a sign This one was on my very first day  when I arrived at the Hanoi Airport. It was good to see!

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Early on the morning of 3rd February my train lurched into Hanoi’s main station after the return journey from Lao Cai.

 I ran the gauntlet of taxi drivers (cars or motor bikes) and ignored them as I’d been given clear instructions and directions about the three minute walk to the hotel where I would rest, get a shower and eat breakfast.

It was 5:00 a.m. and already the streets were busy. Outside the Hotel door a man was squatting and sharpening knives.

It was not the finest hotel, but I got a rest and had an “o.k.” breakfast.

Mr Ruby showed up with the driver, and off we went to the Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum.  It is at the spot that Ho Chi Minh read the Vietnamese “Declaration of Independence” on Sep 2nd 1945.

Whatever we…

Village life for a day

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My itinerary said that I would be trekking to Ta Phin Village to stay with a Dao host family, there to enjoy and ethnic style dinner, and to share in family life by: (e.g.) feeding the animals, cleaning the house or gardening.  Mr Ruby in Hanoi had  suggested that I take some school supplies to present to the village school.

It did not turn out that way.  Of course you know that I failed in the trek, and had an “interesting” ride on a motor bike.  The driver took me to a large village, and talked me into paying him an extra five dollars so that he would go back to give Sinh (my guide) a ride

In the large village I was immediately surrounded by five or six women from the Black Hmong tribe, each one being intent to sell me handicrafts, and one offering to find me a local woman to be my wife.

I had been warned to ignore such hawkers in the villages and cities, but boy were they persistent.  It was only when I stopped answering questions and gave them the silent treatment that they “cease…

To the mountains by train and mini-bus

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So, after my great trip to Halong Bay I got back to Hanoi, had a brief respite at the Hotel, and then took the night train to Lao Cai.

Ruby, my “man in Hanoi” took me to the station, and made certain that I was on the right train, in the right compartments, and in the correct sleeping cabin.  Thank goodness!

I shared the cabin with a fifty-something couple from Paris, and their French speaking Vietnamese guide. The couple were jovial and affable and we chatted as much as we could in my bad French and their good English.  Then we all slept.  The berth was comfortable and the clunkety clunk rhythm of the slow train became a soothing lullaby.

At 5:00 a.m. in a cold and misty Lao Cai I was met by Sinh, a very kind 23 years old man who was to be my constant companion for the next 36 hours.  He expressed the traditional Vietnamese respect for older people in a way which made me feel deeply cared for.

From Lao Cai we drove for about an hour in the mist, climbing higher and higher until we r…

Vietnam. Motor Bike Mania

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There is a huge amount of traffic in the larger cities in Vietnam such as Hanoi and Ho Ch Minh City, and in the roads that lead in and out of those places.  Traffic jams are frequent.

 The “rule of the road”  is like playing a game of chicken. “Might is right" (or "sheer nerve") works best.

 I was amazed to see my drivers "squeeze" between other vehicles with no more than two inches to spare on either side. They made Boston drivers look like clumsy amateurs!


Air pollution in the cities is something awful. Most cyclists, motor-cyclists and scooter riders wear face masks, as do many pedestrians.

The most popular car make is Toyota, closely followed by Hyundai/Kia.

There are many of the luxury cars such as BMW, Lexus, Ford SUV’s, and Mercedes.

 I also saw Daewoo and Suzuki cars (neither of which are sold in the USA these days).

My car for the final three days was a Chevy Cruze. Yeah for the Red, Whiteand Blue!

Most of the buses and trucks are by Hyundai, with …