A Travellerspoint blog

July 2012

Good bye Vietnam!

Reporting from Ho Chi Minh City

sunny 31 °C
View H is for Holiday on aboo10's travel map.

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
View H is for Holiday on aboo10's travel map.

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
View H is for Holiday on aboo10's travel map.

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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
View H is for Holiday on aboo10's travel map.

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)

China Maritime Museum

Reporting from Jinqiao

sunny 32 °C

On the last Friday in June the kids and I got up to a bright blue sky revelling in the knowledge that it was the very first day of the long summer holiday, eight weeks of summer stretching out lazily ahead of us... the term had seemed to go on and on, and finally reaching that last week of term was relief to everyone, parents, kids and teachers.

It's also a bit of a sad time of year here as it is unfortunately a time that we often say good bye to some of our friends as they move on to new pastures green, and so that first weekend, coupled with being the start of the holidays for everyone was full of farewells. The biggest one being a great night out at Lost Heaven with about 30 people, unfortunately about 8 of them moving on, but we were lucky with the weather, and started with cocktails on the roof, before having an enormous feast together downstairs.
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On Sunday we went to Yi Cafe at the Shangri-La for buffet brunch, which is a bit of a Shanghai institution, but one in four years we have never participated in. There were twelve of us, and the kids were free! I went not expecting Jie Jie to eat anything, but to my surprise and delight she asked for a pasta dish to be cooked to order, and then surprised and delighted me further by eating the whole thing! Didi sampled lots of things off our plates, but the funniest bit was when he got a bread stick which was about a metre long, and proceeded to take bites from it, without picking it up off the table! There was also a dessert bar, and Jie Jie got confident about dipping marshmallows into a chocolate fountain. When we got home, Mike and I had eaten enough that we just needed to lie down like a snake digesting a mouse! It was delicious, and good fun, and with good friends, but I couldn't go every week!!

We lazed around for the week, going swimming with friends and on our own, out for lunch and playdates with friends, to another farewell party at an indoor play centre and then one week into the holidays, we went out to the China Maritime Museum - fortunately with friends who have a car, as they picked us up and drove us there - well past the airport! The building was impressive, with massive sails, reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House:
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And inside the museum, we were at first taken aback by the chill in the air, as the air conditioning was working so well it felt cold - admittedly part of that would have been coming inside from 34 degrees! The museum was great, lots of control rooms and hands on displays for the kids to play with and pretend that they were driving and working hard in submarines or on ships. My favourite was the old ship in the central void, with the mast going high up into the sail of the building.
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There were a number of wonderful displays, including model ships and aircraft carriers, the history of boats from bamboo rafts ('Just like Yangshuo', said Jie Jie) right through to enormous tankers, also tidal projections on a globe, engine rooms, simulated activities to practise welding or crane driving and of course a children's playroom complete with boats, cranes and fish. It was a great day out!

We've now had a couple more playdates and swims, and then tomorrow we are off on our summer vacation and adventure... we are going to Vietnam! We fly to Hanoi tomorrow afternoon where we are staying for 3 days, then heading down for 2 weeks on the beach in Hoi An, followed by 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City and finishing off with a trip to Disneyland in Hong Kong! How lucky are we??

Posted by aboo10 18:05 Archived in China Tagged buildings children boats museum family_travel Comments (1)

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