Now that really threw me for a loop! Very nice!!!

Trip Start Oct 31, 2012
Trip End Dec 12, 2012

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Since last night was to be my last in Hanoi, I decided to take a walk to the downtown area and take it all in one last time.  Upon my return to the hotel, I was surprised that I was finally able to make it back without getting lost.  While that may have been a big suprise for me, something bigger was yet to come.  

As I approached the desk clerk for my room key, he said, "David, we see that you are leaving very early tomorrow morning, and that tomorrow is your birthday.  So we want to give you a birthday cake tonight...happy birthday!"  And just as he said it, he reached over and handed me a cake that was decorated nicely, with the words "Happy birthday David" on it.  It took me by such surprise.  .  (This is the second time a birthday recognition was given to me by complete surprise, and both situations left me speechless.)

When I got to my room, there was an evaluation form waiting for me to fill out.  Part of it said: "Thank you for staying with us.  With our commitment to "Touching Emotion," we actively seek and want your feedback.  No business can afford to stand still..."  Well, the staff surely touched my emotions for the moment I stepped into the hotel, up to this minute, with cake in hand, and more was to follow. 

The clock struck midnight, it was now officially November 18, and I am now officially one year older.  It didn't take long before the alarm went off at 3.30 am, with a taxi coming to get me at 4 am to take me to the airport.  I've said it before, but these morning flights always seem like a good idea when you are booking them, but they are hell when they arrive.  When I turned my room key over, the bellboy stepped up to me with a bag, and the desk clerk, the one who handed me the cake a few hours earlier, said that a breakfast had been prepared for me since I wouldn't be there during regular breakfast hours.  The great reviews the hotel gets from the various websites are well deserved.  I can't wait to add my five star review.  Even when people called or showed up in person for a room, though the hotel was full, the staff would work on getting another hotel for them.  If they couldn't find one, then they were asked to come rest in the lobby of the hotel while the staff continued searching a room for them.  (This was all done free of charge.)  I've never seen such great customer service, and I doubt I will ever see it at this level again.

When I first arrived in Hanoi, the tour desk at the airport said it took one hour to get from the airport to downtown during rush hour, which was not true.  As we headed out to the airport in the early morning, free of traffic and honking horns, it took at least 45 minutes --  those girls need to learn how to tell the time, as well as stop booking taxi fares into the same taxi.  Along the way, I see a very large produce market in full swing at that hour.  The hands are waving at one another frantically, it looks like the usual shouting and bargaining.  There are so many people, it looks like a mall in the US a day after Thanksgiving, all at about 4.30 in the morning.

The 6.40 am flight from Hanoi to Hue is not full, and takes less than one hour.  Luckily at the Hue airport there is a shuttle bus that will drop you off at your hotel for only $2.50, eliminating the need to hassle with the taxi drivers.  Arriving so early at my hotel, the staff greet me, provide me a place to change, and shower if necessary, then invite me to have breakfast.  The staff is very friendly and efficient.  Once I am done with breakfast, I am off to the citadel to see the grounds of the former royal family of Vietnam.    

When the French arrived in Hue, they built their settlement on one side of the Perfume River, while allowing the citadel to remain untouched on the other.  A walk from my hotel to the citadel takes about 30 minutes, though a rickshaw driver tries to get me lost so that I can end up using his service. It's very overcast and misty, not ideal for picture taking.  As the morning progresses, it starts to rain off and on, with heavy misting between downpours.  While the other tourists run for cover, I stand in the rain, as it is reminiscent of home, and it feels good to get soaked.   

I'm not familiar with the history of the Vietnamese royal family, though I believe they lost power around the time of World War 2.  Many years ago I worked with a guy who was part of the royal family and had always wanted to return home,  Since the Chinese ruled over Vietnam for about 1000 years, the grounds are made up in Chinese style.  Keeping with the other sites in Vietnam, remnants from the war with the US are also kept on site as a reminder of what the US did to the country and its people.  After a few hours touring the grounds, far from the war wreckage, I head back to my hotel in hopes of catching some that sleep I missed out on earlier.



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