Hanoi and Hotel Elegance 3

Trip Start Jan 21, 2009
Trip End Mar 20, 2009

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Hotel Elegance 3

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hanoi and Hotel Elegance 3

We are overwhelmed by North Vietnam.  We arrived at the Hotel Elegance 3 in the old quarter of Hanoi after dark on February 1, 2009.  I chose the moderately priced Hotel Elegance group of 4 Hanoi old quarter boutique hotels, from Trip Advisor reviews.  We were not disappointed.  The staff at Elegance pre-booked our airport transfers, day trip to the "Perfume Pagoda," and overnight junk trip to Halong Bay.  The reception and all staff are very friendly and helpful.  Prior to our arrival, we did everything by email, always with prompt replies.  Our quaint room, (junior suite) had daily fresh fruit, a bottle of Vietnamese wine, and a really complicated funky small shower.  Hanoi is indescribable to those who have not been there.  We were glad to return to the quiet and security of this hotel from our adventures outside.

We love the food!  The Vietnamese foods are quite different from Thai food. Everything is fresh and mostly healthy and not nearly as spicy as in Thailand.  There is warm french bread everywhere, pastries, cream caramels, and the like, leftover from the years as a French colony.

Before the French, Vietnam was occupied by China for about 1000 years ending about the 11th century. During that time, the people and cultures integrated and the Chinese influence can be seen everywhere, especially in the temples and Buddhist customs of worship.

We saw the famous Water Puppet show.  To maneuver the water puppets, the puppeteers stand in water up to their thighs and the puppets dance upon the water to traditional music and stories. This art form is unique to Vietnam and the troupe in Hanoi is world famous.  It was charming!

Navigating the streets and sidewalks on foot or by any other mode; scooter, taxi, cyclo (like a bike rickshaw) to find a restaurant was an adventure.  People sit everywhere on sidewalk restaurants on miniature plastic tables and chairs, motorbikes park on the sidewalks; there is nowhere to walk!

There appear to be no traffic rules and there must be more motorbikes in Hanoi than anywhere else in the world.  Horns are beeping and there is a heavy layer of smog in the air.  A photo won't do this description justice.  You must see it to understand.  That said, crossing the street is really intimidating.  We had to learn to run out and hope the motorbikes were paying attention enough to miss us.  We had heard about some purse/bag slashings and snatchings.  We didn't venture far and we can say with relief that we have gotten in and out of Vietnam with amazing photos, stories and memories and with no negative incidents.

The next two entries will be about the wonderful trips to the countryside we took from Hanoi.
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