Hoan Kiem District
8/50 Dao Duy
Clean and spacious a/c standard double room with private bathroom and wifi for VND 330,000.- or US$ 12.- per night. Friendly staff, excellent service.
Click below for an interactive road map of the Camel City Hotel in Hanoi, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:
Bracing for the category-3 typhoon Son-Tinh which strikes Vietnam’s coast at about 09:00 GMT on 28 October 2012 with 1-minute maximum sustained winds of around 100 knots or 180 km/h, with considerably higher gusts plus torrential downpours (data supplied by the US Navy and Air Force Joint Typhoon Warning Center suggested that the point of landfall would be near N 20° E 106°, only 100 km southeast of Hanoi), learning that it quite suddenly changes its course towards the northeast thus missing Hanoi only by a whisker and thereafter celebrating our survival with pint after pint of ice-cold bia hơi (fresh draft beer, VND 5,000.- or US$ 0.25 per glass) in our favourite informal beer garden located at the southeast corner of Phố Tạ Hiện and Phố Lương Ngọc Quyến, aka “Bia Hơi Corner”.
Pitching camp and delving into the maze-like lanes of the Old Quarter, Hanoi’s historic heart (“...steeped in history, pulsating with life, bubbling with commerce, buzzing with motorbikes and rich in exotic scents...”), exploring the chaotic Đồng Xuân Market aka Chợ Đồng Xuân where we discovered the best Vietnamese coffee ever (VND 15,000.- or US$ 0.70 per large cup, free wifi) at Cafe Pho +84438284070, a very friendly and relaxed island in a stormy sea of used and new clothes, natural and synthetic cosmetics, fake and genuine sunglasses, luxury and cat food, acoustic and electronic musical instruments, quality and junk plumbing supplies, religious offerings and communist propaganda posters, and so on and so forth - you name it!
Meeting Uncle Ho’s perky and not-so communist great granddaughters-turned-models, clad in their beautiful, traditional áo dài, in the vicinity of the surreal Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum, the holiest of the holies for both the hard-liners and many of their subjects, and having loads of fun during an extended photo shoot with these enthusiastic beauties.
Exploring the shores of
Hanoi’s overrated West Lake aka Tây Hồ, the city’s largest lake, and thereafter staring into the indefinable gaze of hundreds of white Bodhisattvas at the atmospheric Trấn Quốc Pagoda, one of the oldest Buddhist pagodas in . Vietnam
Chasing after god and photo models at Hanoi’s religio-touristy places of interest, thus (i) studying the Confucian compulsion for order, symmetry and harmony between heaven and earth in the peaceful Temple of Literature (admission: VND 20,000.- or US$ 0.95 per person) where Vietnam’s first university was established in 1076 CE, (ii) climbing the delicate 1049 CE One Pillar Pagoda, built of wood on a single stone pillar and designed to resemble a lotus blossom, the symbol of purity, rising out of a sea of sorrow, and (iii) eyeballing the ramshackle Turtle Tower aka Tháp Rùa which is falling into ruin on an islet near the southern end of the scenic Sword Lake aka Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
Purchasing tourist visas for Red China and Thailand and being rendered speechless by the polite and professional work flow (neither wait nor bribe) at both (i) the Chinese Embassy +84438453736 (single-entry 30-day tourist-and-family-visit visa [L-visa], processed within four working days, requirements: one passport photo, confirmed hotel reservation, return ticket and US$ 30.- per person in cash) and (ii) the Royal Thai Embassy +84438235095 (single-entry 60-day tourist visa [TR-visa], processed within 36 hours, requirements: one passport photo, return ticket and US$ 40.- per person in cash).
Taking the northbound LC 3 train of the hundred-year-old Kunming-Haiphong Railway from Hanoi’s Trần Quý Cáp Station (situated on the west side of the Ga Hà Nội, Hanoi's main railway station) along the murky Red River to the border town of Lào Cai (c. 380 km, 10 ¾ hours, VND 111,000.- or US$ 5.30 per person for “hard seat non a/c”), a non-descript but bustling spot situated in the Tonkinese Alps aka Hoang Liên Sơn Mountains, fuelled by growing cross-border trade with archenemy Red China.
Click below for a summary of this year's travels
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