A Travellerspoint blog

Arrived in Hong Kong

Reporting from Hong Kong

overcast 31 °C
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So after a wonderful relaxing and problem free trip to Vietnam, we arrived to Hong Kong airport to find a half hour queue through immigration and then to find our bag of Vietnamese souvenirs missing from the luggage carousel. We looked everywhere. Our three other bags were here. And we hadn't lost a kid, or any hand carry. (Hmmm - I did leave a dress in the cupboard in HoiAn, but that was just an oops!)

So we launched into damage control, and approached an airport staff member to see what we should do. Filled in loads of forms, had the rest of our luggage weighed, waited while they sent a telex (I didn't know these still existed) to Ho Chi Minh City Airport and Vietnam Airlines, and airport staff searched Hong Kong airport. Eventually feeling a bit down and dejected we went through customs and went to look for a taxi to take us to our hotel. But we spotted a sign to Airport Lost and Found and thought we better investigate. So Mike went to find out about taxis and I went to ask on the off chance our bag had been abandoned somewhere... and while I was talking to the girl my phone (which hasn't rung for 3 weeks and 1 day) started to buzz... and yay, it was a lady who had my bag! Yes, she'd collected it in error and taken it to her hotel - which amazingly was only around the corner from where ours is.

We headed back to where Mike was waiting but he saw us on the escalators, so we went straight back up, but couldn't see him anywhere. I went down a corridor, but it was clearly offices and not the taxis, and then went back and down the escalators again - no sign of him, so went back up and then ducked into 7Eleven to get some sustenance (chocolate milk, coke and some chips), and then went down the escalators again, still no Mike. Anyway as it turned out it seemed that he'd been going up and down in the lifts as we were going up and down the escalators, ultimately quite comedic, but we each blamed the other!

Got to the hotel, and Didi had fallen asleep in the cab. They gave us our room key and number and took us upstairs, but the door key didn't work, and then someone let us in to the room, but it already had someone else's stuff in it. So we trooped back downstairs to find that they'd miswritten the last number on our form... so back we went, and then the room had two single beds in... I understood that we were going to have two double beds! Anyway, tomorrow we are moving into a room with a king size bed, and then will have a single bed brought in. So just for tonight we have to make do with 3 single beds (they are king singles, but still).

We headed out to collect the missing bag, and that was nice and straight forward! Dropped it off at the hotel, and then went out for the most succulent delicious monster piece of steak we've had in a while and a bottle of red wine!

Our first impressions of Hong Kong are that it looks a bit like Shanghai and Sydney combined with UK street signs and number plates. It is nice to be somewhere where there are not motorcycles on the pavement and cars stop at red lights!

Tomorrow our plans are to go to the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Hong Kong Space Museum. We might even go for a swim in the hotel pool!

Posted by aboo10 07:38 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged children planes family_travel Comments (1)

Good bye Vietnam!

Reporting from Ho Chi Minh City

sunny 31 °C
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Well it's been a fabulous three weeks, and overall gone so quickly! We arrived for our introduction in Hanoi to motorcycle traffic and Pho, and then headed down for two weeks on the beach. The first four days there passed so slowly as we settled into our new lifestyle and routine of swimming, resting and playing. We then introduced some activities like exploring the town, going to My Son ruins and doing a cooking tour, and then suddenly there were only four days to go... these rocketed past and we found ourselves back in the hustle and bustle of a big city of Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon. We crammed a good portion of Saigon into two days and now this morning are waking up, with our room all packed up and time to head back to China... but first a little adventure in Hong Kong.

Hanoi:
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Hoi An:
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Ho Chi Minh City:
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Hopefully we can come to Vietnam again!

Posted by aboo10 16:49 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beaches churches children family_travel Comments (0)

My Son

Reporting from Ho Chi Minh CIty

sunny 30 °C
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Primarily our trip to Vietnam was for a beach holiday, but as I already said we thought we should visit the main cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as well, and while we were at it thought we should see something near HoiAn that was historical and cultural. So we arranged for a trip to My Son Holyland- a religious centre from the 4th to 13th centuries before lapsing into ruins. It was discovered in the 1890s by French archeologists, and there were about 70 temples in the valley. Unfortunately during the Vietnam War the most impressive remains were destroyed completely by bombing.

We were up early for a big breakfast and to meet our driver at 7.30, to beat some of the heat of the day. The drive from our resort was a bit over an hour, and we were dropped off at the bottom of a trail to head up to the ruins.

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Then when we got to the top, the first thing we saw was a huge empty structure with chairs, a few electric fans and a stage. After a quick refreshing drink of water, the kids took to the stage and Didi in particular took to posing his arms similar to photos on the walls of traditional dancers. We realised there would be a show on in 15 mins and decided to stay exactly where we were in the front row of the seats. Didi and Jie Jie continued to dance around on the stage and then suddenly disappeared behind the curtain... and befriended one of the dancers in the show. When the show started she even waved secretly to them! There were four acts, which were apparently traditional from the original inhabitants of the My Son area.

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After the show we walked over to the first group of ruins, the groups of ruins here are imaginatively labelled with just a letter A-K. The first group, and the ones with the 'best' ruins are the BCD Group. The ruins in this area were temples and towers in this Holy City, with the oldest part being the main sanctuary built in the 4th Century. Largely the temples were made of brick, but also with some large stones for supporting structures, it all looks quite romantic as now many of the ruins are covered in vegetation.

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In this section as well there are two decent sized halls, which have withstood the ravages of time and now are galleries housing some of the best preserved pieces of Cham sculpture from the region. The Cham Empire was in place in Central Vietnam from the 2nd Century until its downfall in 1832, and most of what remains from the ancient kingdom is the art and architecture, which was most impressive between the 8th and 10th Centuries.

It was very hot while we were here, and there was little respite from the sun, and the kids found it quite tiring and heavy going. Mike and I probably could have stayed there for a bit longer, but the kids were exhausted, and even after a rest stop, and meanders around the ruins, I think they felt that once they had been inside one of the ruins, the rest were all the same. But we kept on and visited most of the groups, but kept moving, and alternately piggy backed the kids. But it was definitely a relief when we gave up our dreams of being Indiana Jones or Lara Croft and returned to the comfort of the air conditioned car and headed back to our resort.

The only thing that scared us was the warning in the guide book to stick to the paths as the area had been mined during the Vietnam War! The My Son ruins are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it was a stunning adventure for us, and made us all the more keen to visit somewhere like Angkor Wat in the future. There is a lot of restoration and rebuilding work being undertaken at the moment, and the preservation of this historic site is important for future visitors.

Posted by aboo10 16:19 Archived in Vietnam Tagged landscapes buildings children temples ruins ecotourism family_travel Comments (0)

One week away

Reporting from HoiAn

sunny 34 °C
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We've been away from Shanghai for only one week... and here in HoiAn for 4 days, but the beach lifestyle has slowed us right down and we feel already like we've been here for much longer. The resort we are staying in is lovely, and is better than we expected, we have a little two storey 'ocean view villa' with a private pool and garden. We can also use the main pools for the resort, where there are also shallow kiddy pools, sun loungers and of course the poolside bar. We are one row of villas back from the beach. We have spent most of the last four days in our pool, but have also played on the beach, swam in the sea and in one of the resort pools, and have been into HoiAn town a few times.

We are about 6km out of town, but there is a bus from the resort quite regularly, and we have decided that we will go in for dinner most nights, from now on as we have already had everything on the menu here! It is also a good time of day, if we get the 4pm shuttle in for an early dinner, as it has started to cool down from the heat of the day. We went in one morning, and it was so hot and sticky, we couldn't look at anything or walk anywhere, as the kids were whining and complaining, but in the early evenings, particularly straight after dinner they are quite happy to roam around a bit. And then are exhausted and ready for bed when we get home!

The kids were a bit apprehensive about swimming in the sea, the first day we went in there was a bit of a swell, and they weren't quite prepared. But today it was still and calm, and Didi was so pleased with himself for putting his feet on the sand, in the water and walking neck deep in the gentle waves between Mike and me, and back again, and again, and again! He then got braver and was able to go all the way onto the beach and back into the water. I think with 10 more days here, both will be confident in the sea (although the waves are nothing like Coogee!) Didi is also improving swimming in the pool, he relies on his bubble and floats, but he is working his legs and is prepared to doggy paddle short distances between us, always keeping his head out of the water.

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Jie Jie and I woke early on our first morning here, and had a special walk down to the beach to watch the sunrise. The beach was still and quiet, but there were lots of fishing boats out on the water. The sun rose majestically over the Cham Islands, and it was so serene and beautiful!

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Lucky us - we still have ten more days here! We will try and visit some of the actual tourist attractions in HoiAn, and not just spend all our time lying in the sun watching the kids play in the sand or swim! Tomorrow we are up for something different, we have a half day tour planned for the morning... we are being collected at 7.30 - so very early start...

Posted by aboo10 08:57 Archived in Vietnam Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches children family_travel Comments (1)

Hanoi - first days in Vietnam

Reporting from Hanoi

semi-overcast 33 °C
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So almost as soon as we took off, and had a meal, it felt like they were preparing the cabin for landing... such a short hop for our long haul seasoned little travellers this was. In fact the flight was quite good fun, as a little girl from Jie Jie's new class was also on our flight, and as luck would have it, Jie Jie and I had a spare seat next to us so this little girl joined us for about 45 minutes and they drew and coloured and chatted like little business people! We will catch up with her family again as they were headed for HoiAn, our second destination.

As this is our first trip to Vietnam, and although we are primarily here for a beach holiday, we have opted to surround our beach trip with three days in the two main cities of Vietnam - Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and while we don't pretend with 3 days in each we can do justice to either, we will try! And already we have given Hanoi a pretty good effort.

We were collected from the airport and our first impressions of Hanoi was of the traffic... motorcycle traffic, it was everywhere. At least they use headlights and wear helmets, so in the evening darkness, at least they were visible. The driver was weaving in and out, and we didn't see any collisions, or near misses. We did see 4 people on one bike, and the car at one stop was completely surrounded. The kids were zonked, and both asleep for the journey, and stayed asleep as we checked into the Impressive Hotel (that's the name!!) in the Old Quarter. Our room was basic, a double bed and a single for all of us, a very efficient mini fridge, and TV with English language Cartoon Network and Disney Channel!!

We woke early on the first morning, and after having the air conditioning blasting all night, we were struck by the humidity, and so was our camera which fogged up as soon as we stepped on our balcony to take our first snapshots of our Hanoi street. We headed downstairs for breakfast, and decided to start with the Vietnamese way and ordered Chicken Pho for breakfast! Was delicious!
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We then set out into the humidity to explore our local surrounds. It wasn't long before we found the Hoan Kiem Lake, and the stunning Red Sunbeam Bridge. But found that to pay the entrance fee to cross the bridge we needed to have Vietnamese Dong, and unfortunately we were only carrying USD, so we went off in search of an ATM and withdrew 500,000VND (unfortunately only US$20 - so didn't go very far! Jie Jie and Didi by this time were starting to feel the effects of walking in the humidity (did I mention that we have no pram this trip??) and so stopped at an air conditioned juice bar for a good rest. We then went back to the Sunbeam Bridge, and visited the Jade Mountain Temple on the island there, saw the giant tortoise which is the subject of an ancient legend about the lake. The kids then sung and danced on a small stage overlooking the lake with a performance (in English and Mandarin) that entertained not just us!

We opted to head back to the hotel for a siesta. The heat of the day was wearing all of us out, and we thought that if we gave the kids some down time we would be able to venture out again later when the temperature dropped. We made the mistake of letting the kids watch TV, and subsequently once their bodies were rested they then climbed all around the room, driving us nuts! But we'd made provision for that and so headed off to see Thang Long Water Puppets - we had seen some photos of this show, but really had no idea what to expect. The stage was a pool of green water and a large red pagoda. We had front row seats, which was amazing, and the theatre was packed. The show started with Festival Drumming and an overture performed on traditional Vietnamese musical instruments. The wooden puppets came out and were 'swimming' through the water, controlled by their puppeteers, hiding behind a curtain hanging at the front of the pagoda. Each piece was a stand alone story, and we saw a number of Vietnamese myths and legends come to life with cleverly manipulated puppets. The kids loved it!! We then went for a pizza dinner and our first Vietnamese beer. Then home to bed.
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On our second day we headed out to the Temple of Literature, a stunning collection of old buildings originally built as a centre of higher learning in honour of Confucius. We saw a number of graduands in academic dress posing for photos with their newly conferred degree certificates. We enjoyed wandering around the Temple looking at the statues, art, gardens, bonsai and inside the temple. We had an early pho lunch just outside the Temple and then splashed out on a Cyclo trip home to the hotel, for what I think will become routine on this holiday, a midday nap...

On our last night in Hanoi, we headed out again to look for a painting. We wandered around, past motorcycle fixing shops, bamboo ladder stores, wedding invitation stores, tailors, each street or block seeming to be specific for one thing only. We walked through a wet market, and then finally succumbed to the cries of 'I'm hungry', stopped at an on street cafe for a beef and potatoes stir fry and pork fried rice. After some persuasion Jie Jie actually ate some of the fried rice. And the potatoes in the beef and potatoes stir fry were actually french fries! It was quite amusing because we weren't expecting it! And just as we were finishing dinner the heavens opened with an enormous tropical storm. We stayed put for about half an hour, and Didi befriended the waiter, and wanted to help unblock the gutter drain!
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When the rain finally eased we headed for home, stopping in a number of galleries looking at some oil paintings... really lovely. But ended up carrying the kids home and hitting the sack!! Now we are waiting for transport to the airport for our next flight, and the next leg of our holiday! The beach!!!

Posted by aboo10 18:24 Archived in Vietnam Tagged lakes bridges art buildings family_travel Comments (2)

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