Back in Hanoi

Trip Start Sep 24, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Where I stayed
AZ Hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, April 6, 2007

Arrived safely in Hanoi at 5:30 a.m. after a very pleasant train ride. My compartment companions were 2 Italian men, Juliano and Guiseppe and a Pakistani woman, Samella who was married to Guiseppe who works for an Italian oil company in Karachi.  Juliano didn't speak much English but he understood more. We had great conversations until about 10:30 and Juliano gave up his bottom bunk for me so that was good as Pole Travel guy didn't come onto the train like he said he would when I met him outside the train station at 8:30.  The 3 of us took pics of each other this morning before we got off in Hanoi, they were going to have a quick shower then take the 3 hour bus to Halong Bay for the boat trip etc that I took last week. We never ran into each other in Sapa. 
So I  got a taxi to AZ hotel - no touts other than the non sanctioned taxi drivers but an airport porter got me a sanctioned one and I arrived and the sheet metal door to the Hotel was pulled down so I banged on it as directed by Duyen, watched by a couple of guys eating their 'pho' noodle soup for breakfast on little stools in the street and finally Duyen, sleepy eyed, opened the garage door type of apparatus and I got in, he went back to sleep on the couch, I put my stuff in the office and crept out as other staff were spread out everywhere! I pulled down the door and went walking in the cool calm air and quiet of early morning Hanoi, many women practicing group exercises around Hoan Kiem Lake, others walking, running, very interesting sight. I was trying to find either Kangaroo Cafe or Les Cafes des Arts, both mentioned in Lonely Plant Guide, which was packed in my pack.  No one seemed to know where they were, got some directions from a hotel that happened to be open at 6 :30 this a.m. and I kept walking in circles in spite of directions cause that is my modus operandi you know, ended up finally taking the offer of 'motorbike, madam' of course being ASSURED he knew where I wanted to go, ya right, I said drive slowly and motioned that I am scared to ride those things. Anyway he stopped at one cafe after another and I kept saying no, no and we stopped diff people on the street and got other directions and finally got to Kangaroo Cafe!  Ended up talking to a couple from Aust. on their honeymoon and a Canadian who we determined was at the same meetings I was in Edmonton last year when I made a presentation on the NWT economy to international trade staff from around the world. She is a Trade Policy OFficer for Foreign Affairs Canada and is in Seoul on business and she recognized my name from mailing lists (and yours Terry!) Her name is Jeannette Patell. Anyway small world, once again! She and the others in the cafe were waiting to go to, you guessed it, Halong Bay!  The Aust. couple happened to mention how wonderful the Sofitel Metropole hotel is here, built during the French Colonial period in early 1900s, he works for Marriott Hotels in Aust. (more about that connection later)
So I finished my coffee and went in search of Les Cafes des Arts, asking a couple of people along the way who had no idea, then saw a Caucasian woman sitting having tea on a little stool on the sidewalk and I asked her if she spoke English and she said she did. I asked her if she knew where this cafe was and she said around the corner but it was a little pricey. Turns out she is a teacher, Kim Richmond, in Saigon (for 3 years) from Vancouver and she was planning to go to the Sofitel Metropole for breakfast and did I want to join her?  Coincidence... so I said sure, but let me check out the Cafe first so I did and thought a nice continental breakfast in the elegant Metropole with company! would be just what the doctor ordered. I hadn't eaten dinner the night before and had been walking for about 2 hours by this time.  So she said she had to go back to her hotel first and guess what, it was A-Z Hotel!  We were a long way away from that hotel by this time and I had no idea she was staying at the same hotel as me (at least I hoped they had a room!)  Got to the hotel and she wanted to change her room to a larger one with a balcony and they had no room for me, unless she gave up her room and moved to the balcony one which she did so I got her quiet room, which unless I had met her and unless she moved from it to the larger one, I would be out on the street again!  So my life is full of angels, can't question it, just go with the flow!  We went to the Metropole and had a lovely sunny table in the corner of the restaurant and helped outselves to this wonderful buffet, cereal, diff breads, toast, cheeses, jams, juices, yogurt and fruit.  Stayed until 12:30 (from 10 a.m.) and then took a taxi to the Museum of Ethnology 5 miles from city center. Very interesting place, Took a taxi back, crazy traffic and Kim is used to crossing streets full of motorbikes going one way and another so we grab each other's arms and make our way across slowly as that is how you do it, wait for them to go around you. It is the scariest thing I have ever done, almost, and goes against all you learn - don't walk in front of traffic.  Anyway got back, after several motorbikes, taxis etc offered to take us as we exited the Museum, where a young female medical student befriended herself to us to practice her English and followed us everywhere! Am now back at Hotel - its 6:44 p.m. doing blog and am quite tired as actually I didn't sleep on train in spite of no snorers!
Booked a flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) tomorrow at 11:40 a.m. Huong is coming at 9 a.m. to meet me for breakfast. Just booked a hotel on line Le Trung, $12 US. hope it went through.
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