Craig and Jeane Off to Hanoi on Tuesday

Old Apr 18th, 2009, 06:02 PM
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We're back - seems we've dropped completely off the Asia Forum home page...

We took the overnight train both to and from Lao Cai (about 45 minutes from Sapa). Tonkin Travel had set us up in the "Fanxipan Express" soft sleeper car. We managed to get a full night's sleep in both directions in spite of the noise and constant rocking of the train. For some reason, the compartments were alternately smoking and non-smoking so we had to deal with that.

Our hotel, the Topas Ecolodge was about 40 minutes outside of Sapa. It is in an absolutely stunning location in the mountains, about a 45 minute walk from a very interesting small Red Dao village which gets few visits from tourists. Our bungalow was spartan but had a great view of Ban Ho village in the valley far below. Unfortunately the Ecolodge has little else going for it. The food was bland and repetitive. Everyone on the staff from the restaurant to housekeeping (all local hires) was clueless. While the couple that manages the place were helpful, they were overwhelmed with the constant turnover of guests at all times of the day. Most it seemed were only staying there for one night while we were there for three.

While it was rainy when we arrived in Sapa, we had mostly sunny days with some fog/mist. It was very hot and humid at mid-day.

We are now luxuriating back at the Sofitel Metropole for the next 24 hours or so. The high temperature in Hanoi is expected to be 102F today - yikes! On to Bangkok tomorrow.

More later...
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Old Apr 18th, 2009, 06:38 PM
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It's the same in Bangkok Craig! We are expecting 38 or 39C and very sticky.

Have a safe flight over.
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Old Apr 18th, 2009, 07:03 PM
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Thanks for your comments on the ecolodge, Craig. enjoy luxuriating at the Metropole and your brief sojourn in Bangkok. I look forward to your full report.
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Old Apr 18th, 2009, 10:42 PM
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smeagol - I would recommend HK over any tour GROUP. As far as HK versus a private guide, the private guide's presentation will likely be more "canned" and if you are shopping or eating, the guide will tend to steer you to places where he earns a commission. On the other hand, some of the HK's English was difficult to understand, making the going slow at times - they are doing tour guiding to improve their English (as well as to promote Hanoi and their country). That being said, some of the regular guides' we have had over the years have been difficult to understand as well. More on our experiences later.

Continuing...

Got out early ~ 8:30 AM to finish last minute shopping. Bought a fairly large lacquerware painting at Thang Long Art Gallery for shipment home and purchased some silk items at Khai Silk - both shops are on Hang Gai. Stopped at Fanny's for a scoop of cinnamon ice cream (scrumptous!) then off to the two Craft Link stores near the Temple of Literature for more last minute purchases. Details to follow in my trip report.

Now hanging out at the Metropole in the mid-day heat. While Jeane and I sit at the computers in the Club Lounge enjoying a cold ice water with lime, a sweet lady from the concierge desk brings us our water puppet theatre tickets they purchased for us for the 3:30 show - the service here is fantastic!
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Old Apr 19th, 2009, 09:31 AM
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Fanny's cinnamon ice cream is one of my favorites as well.

Enjoying your comments -- really looking forward to the trip report.
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Old Apr 19th, 2009, 09:57 AM
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Really looking forward to your trip report and as we are interested in buying art in Hanoi will look forward to details of your purchase/shipping.
Will contact Hanoi Kids as soon as i have firmed up the itinerary.
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Old Apr 19th, 2009, 03:40 PM
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hi from asuncion paraguay...can´t read all 65 tonight but will.....hope all is going well

B&K
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 07:12 AM
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Bangkok - quick trip to SJ for Jeane - now I have met the famous "Lily", friend of Kathy from Seattle.

Dinner at Pook's last night - a great evening.

Today - shopping, Siam Paragon - dinner, Kinnaree (!)

Departing for NRT, IAD, BDL at midnight.

Full trip report soon...
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 08:39 PM
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Craig and Jeanne,
Sorry our paths didn't cross in BKK. I've just arrived, and you two are just leaving! Oh well.... maybe next time. I hope you enjoyed Kinnaree for your last dinner in BKK.
Carol
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Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 12:15 PM
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Craig, I'll be interested to hear about Jeanne's purchase!
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