Vietnam May 2007


Jane and Marcia took a Grand Circle Travel trip to Vietnam in late April - early May. A summary of our itinerary:
    Flight from U.S. to Bangkok where we slept a few hours and then joined our group for the flight to Vietnam
    Flew to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for four days
    Flew to Da Nang airport for two days in the beach town of Hoi An
    Motorcoach to Hue and spent two days there
    Flew to Hanoi for four days
    Flew to Bangkok for one day/night
    Return flights home.
 

We arrived in Bangkok in the middle of the night.  Too excited to go right to bed, we headed to the 24-hour hotel bar/restaurant (we were the only customers). Apparently the English-speaking waiters don't work in the middle of the night--it took about 10 minutes for Jane to communicate her wish for a glass of red wine.  Marcia stuck with beer.

The picture at far right is a garden in Bangkok.

Ho Chi Minh City: The Former Presidential Palace, with beautiful, traditional Vietnamese greeters near the side entrance.  American and Russian tanks are on display.
Clear "signs" of the fact that Vietnam is communist.  Although they have freedom of religion and free economic enterprise, the people would not be comfortable criticizing the government or politicians. A Catholic Church in Ho Chi Minh City...
...complete with neon lights around the statues
Marcia and Jane enjoying cocktails on the rooftop of the Rex Hotel--where the American generals had also enjoyed cocktails while watching the war raging in the distance.

Our tour included a visit to a school.  The children were delighted to see us -- kids everywhere like an interruption from schoolwork :-).  They were encouraged to practice their English on us. 

The children sang us a song, and we had to reciprocate with one of our own.

In the Mekong Delta we saw a contrast of old and new, relative wealth and poverty. We were taken by small boats on creeks to villages on islands in the Mekong River region.
A path through the jungle Marcia entering one of the Cu Chi tunnels. The openings were small and VERY well hidden.  This system of tunnels, over 200 km long, was an incredible engineering feat, and gave the North Vietnamese/Vietcong a big advantage during the Vietnam War (which the Vietnamese call the American War). This picture is Marcia exiting one of the tunnels.

For more information on the Cu Chi tunnels,
 check out
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cu_Chi_Tunnels

There are many religions practiced in Vietnam.  Buddhism is most popular, but we also visited a Cao Dai temple (on the right, with a hearse next to it).  This religion seemed to encompass many diverse beliefs.
Water buffalo along the roadside...beasts of burden The former American air base in Da Nang. Several members of our tour group were Vietnam vets and our guide was very accommodating and respectful in answering their questions. Our beachside hotel in Hoi An--a beautiful resort!
Vietnamese women actually seemed to be comfortable sitting on their haunches. Jane and Marcia working with a designer to have custom-tailored clothes. A cooking lesson--and we got to eat what we
made.  The food was spectacular.
These huge nets are lowered into the river at night and lights shone on them.  This attracts the fish, and the net is raised. Everywhere we stayed, the hotels were beautiful and luxurious. On the right, you see the "typical" bathroom amenities provided.

At the right, chanting Buddhist monks and a temple.
We visited an orphanage supported by funds from the Grand Circle Travel foundation.  The children LOVED to have their pictures taken with digital cameras so they could see themselves.
This little beauty was very shy (unusual), but the boy was delighted.
Jane was so beautiful dressed as a queen that a Vietnamese woman (also touring) asked to have her picture taken with her. Jane being serenaded by a musician in his home. We saw several examples of cottage industries. 
 In this home, a woman is making rice paper.
This cobra is getting his last chance to play before being killed (before our very eyes--ugh) for our dinner.
Our cobra was prepared many different ways.  Every part was used.  No, it didn't taste like chicken.  Some dishes were better than others.  Marcia wasn't crazy about any of them (weird consistency)...


 
but Jane thought they weren't too bad.  She was a
 great sport about it.
Snake wine is a popular souvenir but Jane and Marcia resisted the urge to buy some. We had a dinner cruise in the Halong Bay. Our friend Wayne leaning on a tree in Hanoi.
Hanoi is an unexpectedly beautiful city with numerous parks and lakes. Swan paddle boats on a lake in Hanoi. Yes, the Vietnamese really do wear these hats. 
They are extremely light and provide protection from
the sun and the rain.
We walked through Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum.  Security was tight and respectful behavior was strictly enforced. The original "Hanoi Hilton", now a museum. Celebrating Jane's birthday at our hotel--the
(new) Hanoi Hilton Opera.
During our bus trips, our guide Tony had us do stretching/breathing exercises.  This is Marcia leading the passengers on a similar breathing-in-breathing-out exercise on the flight from Hanoi to Bangkok. A giant Buddha in Bangkok.
This tour in Bangkok was an adventure ...
fortunately we came out safe and sound and not
too much poorer.


   

Reunion of Jim, Betty, Marcia, Marvin, Jane, John



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