Tag Archives: Hanoi

Vietnam 2017

In November I head for Vietnam for my 3rd trip, this time Sharon came with me so I was worried if she would like it as much as I do.  Also since I wanted to take photos I gave her a camera as well.  This sort of backfired as she got better photos 🙂  We visited Hanoi, a 2 night cruise in Halong Bay and finally 6 nights in Hoi An.


I love Hanoi, it’s vibrant, brash, busy, noisy full of motor cycles, but the people are friendly and happy and Vietnamese food is amazing.  We stayed in a really nice hotel in the Old Quarter. In reality I think I would happily stay for weeks in Hanoi, wandering the streets taking it all in and getting photographs.  The last time we were in Vietnam we went to SaPa in the north of the country on the Chinese border but I remembered that when we took the train you could virtually put you arms out the windows and touch the houses.  I wanted to visit the tracks and see how people lived along the tracks.  It was great fun and we met some nice people in particular a young lady selling her own clothing designs in a shop on the tracks.  I will head back here again.Hanoi2017-8937

We also met some good friends we made at a previous trip to visit the Haemophili Centre in a hospital.  Dr Mai and her family were really nice to invite us to her house for a meal and we had a great night.  On the Friday Minh and Hang took us out for a lunch and showed us around Hanoi, another lovely afternoon.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay was a great peaceful break after hectic Hanoi.  We spent two nights on a lovely junk, it was spacious, lovely bedroom, great food and excursions to some of the islands, caves and villages on the bay.

Halong Bay 2017-9616

Hoi An

Hoi An is an amazing place, my daughter recently did a tour of Southeast Asia and it was her favourite.  We were a bit apprehensive heading out as it was just at the end of a fierce storm the Damrey Typhoon which sadly killed 89 people, injured a further 174 and caused huge damage.  However we had fantastic travel agents Exotic Voyages (link) who looked after us very well and they had arranged a five star replacement hotel for our first two nights.  This is the second time I have used Exotic Voyages (Myanmar 2014) and they are fantastic.

Hoi An 2017-9858

What amazed us was the strength of character and resilience of the locals.  They have regular floods, in one restaurant two streets from the river we could see the water line above our heads where the river water had reached.  Yet within days and as the water receded the shops and streets were cleaned and up and open again.  Of course it might have been due to the APEC conference in Danang and visiting dignitaries to Hoi An!  We had a few trips arranged with Exotic Voyages that were great fun, a cooking lesson, trip to My Son Sanctuary, and tour around Hoi An.  Sharon had a dress made and me a bamboo shirt.  Overall a great experience and a place I would head back to along with Hanoi.

Vietnam Day 1&2

Day 1 & 2 have just merged into each other, mostly spent in planes or airport lounges, something like 24 hours since I left the house. I must say Etihad have been excellent, literally from the time I left the house until I reached Bangkok any way! Quick checkin, nice lounges, very relaxing flights they literally flew, pun intended! Bangkok airport is not great and unfortunately had to spend the most time there. Finally make it to Hanoi after a little sleep on the plane, and I’m prepared for the long wait for bureaucracy to take its course and issue us with our visas. But I’m pleasantly surprised at how quickly we got them, another advantage of getting off the plane first and getting to the top of the queue. Pick up the cases, thank god it makes it here, but half my case is full of toys for the kids in the hospital, Brian forgot to take them so I get volunteered to give up half my case. I wouldn’t mind but there is a street called toy street (in Hanoi there are streets named for different guilds or products, like silk street, tailor street, shoe street, bag street etc) where we could have got these toys cheaper. Like taking coal to Newcastle. In arrivals we are met by two sets of people to take us to the hotel. Two staff from the hospital and a taxi arranged by the hotel!

I’m knackered when we arrive at our hotel and when I get to my room it’s 27 hours since I left the house. The hotel is in the old town of Hanoi, it’s very comfortable with a laptop in every room, free wifi and friendly staff. A sister hotel to the one we stayed in last March 2012, called the Essence hotel chain, and this one is called Happy. Glad we didn’t get any of the other 7 dwarfs!

But no rest for the wicked, unpack, the 4 s’s and out again for a short walk to the Metropole hotel where we meet with the Irish Ambassador. We spent a little while having a chat with the ambassador to bring him up to date with the twinning programme. We headed out for a walk around the lake and I took a few photos. I have to admit I missed my Nikon D800 while handles the dark nights in the city, focuses faster and captures sharper. I hope it’s just a matter of adapting to the X-E1 and changing style a bit. then off for a bite to eat a nice light Vietnamese meal in a restaurant down the road from our hotel and then off to bed an early rise at 5.45 am as Prof. Tri is meeting us for breakfast before we head out for the day.

I attach a few photos I took as you can see a few are soft.

Vietnam – Day 6

We were picked up this morning at 6am, we were being brought out for a days sight-seeing and to see a family with a Haemophilic boy. The province of Hoa Binh is a good 2 hour journey though we have to stop off at the hospital first to pick up all those going on the trip. We have Dr Mai and some of her team including another doctor, a few nurses, one of the nurses daughters who acts as a volunteer, a young man with haemophilia and Ms Hang who is an administrator at the hospital in the centre.

On the road in a bus for a couple of hours, and it’s interesting to see the country side and the small villages along the way. Where we are going isn’t in fact too far away, less than a hundred kilometres, but the roads are not great, we come across slow moving vehicles, and the odd small herd of cattle. It appears that it takes forever to drive any sort of distance.

About 9 am we make it to the hydroelectric power station that produces about 20% of the country’s electricity. It was built with the expertise of Russian engineers and some 37000 Vietnamese workers. It took 15 years and some 167 lost their lives in its construction. It was built in a mountain side to prevent its distraction during a war. It was completed in 1982.

We were then taken for a long boat ride on the lake, perhaps to make up for the fact we didn’t get to Holong Bay. We are taken to a small temple on a tiny island in the lake.  Here Dr Mai buys some freshly barbecued fish which we eat on the boat. These are lovely people and even with a bit of a language barrier we had a great laugh and they are so hospitable.

Sorry Michael but I have to say we had another great lunch. We were taken to an excellent restaurant. The food is so fresh and great vegetables and dipping sauces.

Next we are brought to a very entertaining and ethnic dance show. We shared some local wine from a large pot using long bamboo straws.

We are then welcomed into the house of a local boy with haemophilia, our whole crew of 12 of us, are invited in to sit at two long tables they have prepared with food. As well as his parents there is his grandmother, aunts, local doctor, 3 of his school teachers and he also had a friend there with haemophilia. We were made most welcome with, food, drink, flowers, speeches and a gift each. They are truly wonderful people and hopeful that our twinning programme can produce dividends through improved overall health care for their boys and all boys with haemophilia.

It’s just gone 5pm and time to set off. We’ve been invited to an after wedding party of one of the nurses in the Haemophilia Centre. As can be expected weddings are slightly different here, the ceremony is actually tomorrow and tonight we were invited to the brides party in her house (sort of hens party) meanwhile hubby to be is having a party in his home. The wedding album is already produced they took the photos in all the wedding garb about 2 months ago. The family treat us like royalty we are taken into the house and given the bet chairs and introduced to all the important members of the family. Then of course there’s even more food. Overall a fantastic day and they have looked after us very well. Here are some photos from my iPhone today on the lake.







Vietnam – Day 4

Last night we ate out in a lovely little restaurant. Upstairs in a small room with no more than 8 tables, but lovely Vietnamese food. I had spring rolls and we all had their speciality, chicken 5 spices, I think it was called, with steamed rice. Anyway the whole thing was gorgeous and all for only 5.50€!!! Then off to the last night of the late market.

Up early today, quick breakfast and we are taken to the hospital. This involves a 40 min drive from our hotel and it was a real experience driving through rush hour traffic I’ve never seen anything like it. We arrived at the combined blood bank and hospital, it is an impressive building, with very good laboratories, impatient facilities, dedicated staff but unfortunately they lack enough treatment to completely treat everybody. We are introduced to a large number of inpatients and outpatients and it is really heart breaking to see such young men who are severely crippled due to haemophilia. We are very fortunate in Ireland that no one suffers like this any more and it is a great pity to see such suffering when the knowledge and treatment is available in the world. We have a busy day with meetings and I cannot say much about these except it was great to see so many people, some who had travelled a great deal, to meet us. They were very enthusiastic and energetic which hopefully means that conditions will improve in the future.

Afterwards we were taken to another fantastic restaurant and I have to say Vietnamese food is gorgeous, well worth trying if you ever get the chance.

Vietnam – Day 3

Did I mention it was drizzling here, so much for the long range forecast which made me go out and buy sun cream, more likely to get rust than a sun burn! And now see what the forecast says!!

Silly boy I am last night I stayed awake until 2 am listening to the commentary of the Ireland rugby match on my iPhone. It wasn’t even worth listening to! So this morning I slept on a little and the rest were half way through their breakfasts. It was a Sunday and our last free day before the work starts on the workshops. To be honest we didn’t do too much just wandered around looking at the sights. Thankfully most of the museums closed early or Brian would have dragged us around a load more. Getting used to the streets and  being able to walk between the cars and motorbikes. Also it didn’t drizzle all day, it didn’t get sunny, but we didn’t get wet at least.

Tonight we will have another look at the night market and then go for a meal. We are being collected at 8am in the morning to go to the hospital which I think is about 45 minutes away from our hotel. Looks like it will be a busy days.


As we sat having a cup of coffee we watch these balloon sellers who sold their balloons in the middle of the traffic with cars and motorbikes whizzing around them.  The funny thing is that people on motorbikes would stop to buy balloons and head off holding their purchases as they drove along!

Vietnam – Day 2

The hotel is a lovely boutique hotel right in the middle of the old town. The rooms are well appointed with a laptop in each room with Internet as well as WiFi. Mind you you’re not allowed access Facebook.

After a few hours rest we head out in the afternoon for a stroll. The drizzle persists, and we start to get used to the manic traffic. Motorbikes and cars weave all over the street with horns constantly hooting and the pedestrians are also weaving in the traffic. It’s next to impossible to walk on the pavements as there are either people sitting on them or else there are motorbikes parked on the sidewalk.

The streets in the Old Town are narrow and the smell of cooking abounds, it must be the ubiquitous Poh, a noodle soup. As well as standard cafes, there are people selling food from bikes or baskets. Every so often there are people cooking on the pavement and people sitting on little plastic seats eating and drinking. There are shops selling all types of nicknacks and small supermarkets.

We return at 6 pm to meet Dr Mai and her Assistant Ms Hang. We discuss the workshops for the following week before heading off to dinner. The schedule looks very good with visits to people’s homes to see how they cope with their haemophilia. We are also invited to a nurses after wedding celebrations on Wednesday. Dr Mai and Ms Hang are very friendly and bring us to a specialist fish restaurant where we have a fantastic meal. Everything is cooked at the table, the sauces, vegetables and fish are lovely and I manage the chopsticks surprisingly well.  Afterwards we head to the market that runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The streets are thronged with people. To finish the night off, after we leave the girls back to the hotel, Brian and I go look for the Irish bar to get a drink for Paddy’s day.

Tomorrow the plan was to go to Holung Bay, but today due to the bad mist the boats were not allowed out so we’ve decided not risk the 3.5 hour drive there and just do our own thing. In the mean time I listen to the Ireland England rugby match on my iPhone app, amazing what you can do!!

Vietnam – Day 1

Up early at 4am for the flight to Paris, a 4 hour stop over in Charles De Gaul airport, and then on to Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines. The flight is 10.5 hours so in fact the first day is gone on traveling as we arrive on Paddy’s day, Saturday 17th at 5.40am. Not much to say about long flights except I think the plane we flew on had many, many, many hours clocked up on it!!!

Anyway we arrive, and the sun isn’t up yet. Next we have a two hour wait to get our visas, that eventually sorted the bags are waiting for us and so is our taxi driver from the hotel, this is great as you hear all sorts of problems with scams between taxi drivers and hotels.

So the first impressions? Typical Paddy’s day it is raining and misty. The drive from the airport to the city brings us through some country side and we get our first sight of Paddy fields. As we get closer to the city we see a very industrial city with a mixture of typical communist type buildings with a mix of factories: Panasonic and Yamaha to name a couple, and more historic buildings that look Vietnamese with their beautifully ornate roofs. Although its 8 am the traffic is building up and the ubiquitous motor and push bikes become even more prominent. Some stacked high with wares for the market and others with two or three passengers. The traffic runs in all directions with no apparent control, and then the pedestrians trying to cross the road, what havoc!! I’m not looking forward to trying to cross the road.

Our hotel is nestled in the middle of the old town and it is very nice and well appointed. So we decide to get a bite of breakfast and go to bed for a few hours before exploring.