25 Jun - 30 Jun 2010 Hanoi

Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Scamcity Hanoi
Old Quarter
Hoan Kiem District
Dao Duy Tu Lane 8/50
Spacious double room with wifi for only US$ 12.- per night.
Friendly staff; good English.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Indochina Queen Hotel in Hanoi, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Exploring the maze of 36 guild streets and back streets in Hanoi’s chaotic Old Quarter which is steeped in history, pulsating with life, bubbling with commerce, buzzing with motorbikes and rich in exotic scents thus having great encounters with (i) its Chinese legacy at the small 11th-century Bach Ma Temple, the oldest temple in the city, (ii) its French legacy with fresh cheese baguettes (available at any time of day or night) and (iii) its Eastern European legacy (original Russian bubbly aka sovietskoje champanskoje for the steal of only VND 80,000.- or US$ 4.20 per bottle and bia hơi, the fresh, light-bodied draft which was first introduced to Vietnam by the socialist Czechs in the 1970s, for VND 4,000.- or US$ 0.20 per pint).

Experiencing firsthand that Hanoi's crammed Old Quarter, with its 70,000 plus inhabitants, has a population density of c. 850 people per hectare - nearly eight times New York City's.  


Comparing our stays in "capitalist" Saigon and in "socialist" Hanoi, psychologising about the still existing Vietnamese North-South divide and generalising politically incorrect (using our trips to South Vietnam as benchmarks [1], [2], [3]) about the perceived deficiencies of many of the North Vietnamese who were shaped and are still scarred by decades of Marxist-Leninist propaganda and command economy: (i) their trend of shirking from a look and avoiding eye contact with strangers, unless they want to (hard-)sell their merchandise to you, (ii) their lack of skills to honestly and flexibly negotiate a win-win deal, quite often hidden under a rude and brusque take-it-or-leave-it attitude, and (iii) their menfolk's “hard face” with a short supply of the common Southeast Asian smile, as if they were still at war (either with China or with tourists or with themselves).
“Ev'rybody's talking about
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism
Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, That-ism, is-m, is-m, is-m
All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

Watching a wonderful performance of the ancient art of roi nuoc (water puppetry which originated with rice farmers who worked the flooded fields of the Red River Delta) at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre +84439364335 (admission VND 60,000.- or US$ 3.20 per person). 

Laundering for VND 15,000.- or US$ 0.80 per kg, washed and dried, at one of the many convenient no-name neigbourhood laundries. 

Leaving Hanoi, the fascinating blend of East and West which combines traditional Sino-Vietnamese motifs with French flair, and taking the northbound LC 3 train (soft seat air-con, VND 140,000.- or US$ 7.40 per person) from Hanoi’s Tran Quy Cap Station (situated on the west side of Ga Ha Noi, Hanoi's main railway station) along the Red River to Lao Cai (on the Chinese border) in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains aka Tonkinese Alps, and climbing thereafter in a hired van (c. 35 km, 3/4 hour, VND 60,000.- or US$ 3.20 per person) on a winding mountain road along terraced rice paddies to the touristy mountain town Sapa (1,650 m above sea level).

Click below for more blog posts about North Vietnam
2010 Map Konni & Matt

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Konni & Matt Travel Photos

Facing Vietnam
 © Konni & Matt

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22 Jun - 24 Jun 2010 Hue

Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Chu Van An Street 46
Clean double room with wifi for VND 133,000.- or US$ 7.- per night.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hong Tien II Hotel in Huế, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Huế’s huge citadel (begun in 1804 CE on a site chosen by Emperor Gia Long’s geomancers, it was originally made of earth and later strengthened with brick) and discovering (i) its 37m-high flag tower, Vietnam’s tallest flagpole, (ii) its Nine Holy Canons, symbolic protectors of the palace and kingdom, and the (iii) the Imperial Enclosure, housing the emperor’s residence and the buildings of state, with the Forbidden Purple City (a citadel-within-a-citadel-within-a-citadel) at its centre.

“Vietnam was a country where America was trying to make people stop being communists by dropping things on them from airplanes.”

Cruising along the Perfume River aka Sông Hương (US$ 5.- per person for the full-day river tour with Vietnam Discovery Travel +84543837809, including a light tourist lunch) and visiting en-route (i) the 19th century CE Thien Mu pagoda with its 21m-high octagonal tower, (ii) the royal tomb of Minh Mạng aka Lăng Minh Mạng (admission for foreigners VND 55,000.- per person), renowned for its architecture, which harmoniously blends into the natural surroundings, and (iii) the majestic and serene royal tomb of Tự Đức aka Lăng Tự Đức (admission for foreigners VND 55,000.- per person).

Taking the sleeper option of The Sinh Tourist’s +845113833258 reliable air-con open-tour bus from Hue to Hanoi for VND 200,000.- or US$ 10.50 per person for the 660km-long night ride along the coast of the South China Sea thus crossing the ex-DMZ at the 17th parallel and moving from liberal and republican South Vietnam to anti-Chinese and communist North Vietnam.

Click below for more blog posts about old citadels and fortresses

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Facing Vietnam
© Konni & Matt

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from Germany:

For Amazon bargains from the United States, please click here
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16 Jun - 22 Jun 2010 Hoi An

Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Quang Nam Province
Tran Cao Van Street 39
Comfortable twin room, with wifi, breakfast buffet and swimming pool, for US$ 15.- per night.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Phuoc An Hotel in Hoi An, which we would recommend, and for directions:


Wandering through the ancient town of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which oozes charm and history, and exploring (i) her well preserved old shop houses and handicraft workshops (hand painted silk lanterns, embroidery, ceramics), (ii) her colourful and much frequented Chinese congregational assembly halls aka  hoi quan and (iii) her atmospheric Buddhist temples and pagodas: the 15th century CE Chuc Thanh Pagoda, Hoi An's oldest pagoda, and the 18th century CE Phuoc Lam Pagoda, both with traditional roofs made up of thousands of brick-coloured am and duong (yin and yang) roof tiles - so called because of the way the alternating rows of concave and convex tiles fit snugly together.

Learning about the maritime history of Hoi An which used to be one of Southeast Asia’s major international ports and received Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Indian, Filipino, Indonesian, Thai, French, British and American ships to purchase high-grade silk, fabrics, paper, porcelain, tea, molasses, elephant tusks, beeswax, mother-of-pearl, lacquer, sulfur and lead.

Realising that Hoi An is a foodie heaven and indulging in the pescetarian delicacies of the distinctive Hoi An cuisine at our favourite seafood restaurant, Cafe 43 +845103862587: (i) cao lầu, a dish of shrimps and doughy flat noodles which are not quite as slippery as pho and a bit closer in texture to pasta, topped with slices of tofu, dough fritters, and this being Vietnam, lots of fresh herbs, bean sprouts and veggies; (ii) steamed bánh bao vac or white rose, a type of shrimp dumpling made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose; (iii) deep-fried wanton dumplings aka hoanh thánh, essentially the same as the Chinese kind; (iv) gỏi cuốn or Vietnamese fresh spring rolls with shrimps or veggies; (v) muc nhoi or stuffed squid; (vi) bánh xeo or crispy savoury pancakes rolled with herbs in fresh rice paper; and (vii) grilled fish in banana leaf.

Washing down the delicious local food with (i) excellent Dalat red wine aka Vang Dalat for VND 40,000.- or US$ 2.10 per bottle and (ii) refreshing local draft beer aka bia hơi for VND 3,000.- or US$ 0.15 per pint; may we be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows we're dead, cheers!

Discovering Hoi An's scenic environs: (i) cycling through green rice paddies to the palm-lined Cua Dai beach, situated c. 5 km east of Hoi An, and (ii) cruising the Thu Bon River estuary (with its peculiar sand-coloured stationary fishing nets which are strung up on bamboo poles over the dark, buried undercurrent of the shallow river, sagging like four-poster hammocks beneath the blue sky) on a rugged diesel launch with a very capable female captain; many thanks for a very nice and relaxing trip, dear Xi!

Laundering our dirty linen for VND 10,000.- or US$ 0.50 per kg, washed and dried, at the efficient hotel laundry.

"An income tax form is like a laundry list - either way you lose your shirt."

Taking the rugged sleeper option of Hoan Hao’s air-con open-tour bus from Hoi An via Da Nang to history-seeped imperial Hue (c. 150 km, 4 3/4 hours, VND 60,000.- or c. US$ 3.15 per person), the old capital of the Nguyen emperors on the banks of the enigmatically named Perfume River.

Click below for other blog posts about interesting Asian UNESCO World Heritage Sites
23 Jun - 26 Jun 2013 Nara
17 Feb - 20 Feb 2013 George Town
25 Oct - 08 Nov 2012 Hanoi (about Halong Bay)
15 Sep - 17 Sep 2012 Xiamen (about Fujian Tulou)
24 Oct - 31 Dec 2005 Ashkelon (about Jerusalem)

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from the United States:
For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here 
For Amazon bargains from Canada, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here