Trip started out with Kendal delivering us to the GP airport and a 20 minute delay for our flight! Good old Air Canada! Thankfully that was not the norm for the rest of the trip. Stayed at The Clique Hotel in Calgary, highly recommend for an over nighter. Very modern, classy and most importantly, clean. It is a little remote and out of the way for the city – but great for a sleep over, with a free shuttle to and from the airport, we booked there for our return trip. During our short wait in Vancouver I did go up to the ANA counter and requested a seat change as we were in the centre row, middle and isle seat . Wasn’t a problem , moved to an emerg exit- with ample leg room as we were right by the galley, with no wall or seats in front of us. The down side was no storage on the floor – but I would take the leg room, and ease of getting up and down without disturbing people ( or being disturbed) again in a heartbeat! Shortly after take off the crew started playing with the windows and lights! The windows all faded out to very dark purple and the cabin lights went from a bright white , to soft and finally to a purple hue. Then as we approached Tokyo it went in reverse, and before we knew it the sun was shining in the window! I suppose it is to stimulate your body into thinking you went through the night as you fly across the date line. The flight and service on the plane was nothing less than perfect. Meals served with REAL utensils, and glassware! I opted for the North American meal, hot hamburger while Gary went with the Japanese cuisine, salmon and rice. Had a few beers, and watched a couple movies and had a nap! The flight of 9.5 – 10 hours was completed in just under nine! Bonus! So we opted to spend our 14 hour layover at the Royal park transit hotel! It is a small room with everything you need, from toothbrushes, tv and PJ’s to a totally automated toilet – which I was very “careful” around! I could not believe how quiet it was with all the traffic – 492000 cabs and buses just outside our window , and jets all night long we could not hear a thing, TOTAL silence! Aside from twin beds – it was perfect. As the hotel is situated in the secure area of the airport, the next morning it was a relaxing stroll to our gate to board our flight to Hanoi. But not before opening the blinds to snap a photo of Mount Fugi.
Unfortunately we were not able to sit together on this flight, we attempted to change seats but the flight was full, so we both ended up in the middle seat in the middle isle – in the last two rows of the plane! It was a long six hour flight, and the most turbulent. A driver picked us up at the airport, bringing us into the Old Quarter which is said to have a history of 1000 years old – or hotel being part of that history! The hotel is old, but quaint. The whole building is maybe 10 – 12 feet wide. With that said, there are 3 elevators, going to the 8 floor, those on the 9 and 10th floor have to continue on the stairs! When you get out of the elevators there are only 2 rooms, one to the right and one to the left! I was happy to be on the 8th floor and at the back of the building for the quietness of it, but the lack of Windows was not pleasent. One looks out onto a brick wall, and the other window is about 7 feet up the wall and is about 6 inches by 24 inches. Mines advised this may be one of the best accommodations on the trip, yikes the , two single beds, but we’ll survive and headed out to explore.
We wandered around for a few hours before settling in at a second story bar over looking the busy streets. Navigating these streets is a challenge. And I say “streets” because for the most part you can not walk on the sidewalks as they have become, or maybe always were, a place to park the millions of scooters/motorbikes, So you walk on the street hoping they can all drive better than I could, and you do not make sudden moves left or right and you don’t come to a sudden stop. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason as to how they drive, it reminds me of synchronized skating, intersecting each other almost like an art.
We arrived back at our hotel and sat down for a couple beer and were soon joined by several other people that were also on a G-Adventure tour. Got some awesome advice for touring this old quarter the next day, then headed upstairs for an early bed time! We were both feeling pretty exhausted. The next morning, downstairs and opted for a traditional Vietnamese breakfast! I love noodles! First stop of the day was the Hoa Lo Prison. Built by the French in 1896, most of it was demolished in 1990 to make room for a hotel, and office complex. They did save a wing of the prison which now depicts the life that was behind these walls. American senator, John McCain spent 6 years there. Although the Americans were treated well, the Vietnamese were not.
Some very graphic senes throughout the prison. We left the prison and headed towards Hoan Kiem Lake. Ngoc Son Temple, which is really a small pagoda that sits on a tiny island in the middle of the lake
Such a beautiful, and peaceful park. We strolled around the lake before heading back into the old quarter and wandering more streets. All the streets in the old quarter begins with ” Hang”, which means merchandise. The second word on the street name refers to what is sold on the street. As you make your way down “Hang Chi” street, as an example, you notice it is dedicated souly to threads, both sides and for several blocks! Very interesting concept, dating back hundreds of years. It was soon time to head back to our Hotel to meet with our G-Adventure tour guide, and our travel companions for the next couple of weeks, although some are not on the complete tour. After the meeting we ventured back out for a couple of hours. Although still crazy busy with bikes and cars , a couple streets were pedestrian only as they have festivals every Friday,Saturday, and Sunday night , traditional dancing and music and many food stalls moved out into the streets to add to the chaos. It was great fun, but alas an early rise for the next leg of our trip…Hang Long Bay, and our promised hiking, kayaking and caving ending our day with a night on a traditional Junk boat!