2013 Vietnam for Andrew's 50th Birthday

Friday 15th Nov

Flew to Ha Noi (which means city inside the river) Bought Andrew a mac laptop in duty free shop. Had breakfast in Jamie’s Italian before 12 hour flight.

Saturday 16th Nov

Arrived at Hanoi at 7am Vietnamese time & had an immediate tour as we can’t book in to the hotel till 2pm.

Nhat pronounced Nyat our tour guide & Hai our driver, took us around Hanoi.

We went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to see the body of president Ho Chi Minh who looked very peaceful in his glass coffin. {A bit of a shock as we were not aware that we were going to be paraded in to visit him!}

Next was the Presidential Palace, the little house where Ho Chi Minh preferred to live and his little house on stilts which he designed himself and is simple & beautiful, but he only lived there for a year before he died. Apparently he only stayed at the palace if he had to be there officially preferring a much more simple life. We saw his cars and lots of police cadets there too.

Visited the One Pillar Pagoda where the women go to pray for babies {or more babies.}

Onward to the Ho Chi Minh Museum for a wander about.

Were then taken to a lacquer shop & bought a gorgeous set of 4 lacquer & mother of pearl prints - Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter after a lot of dithering over what to buy.

Visited the Chinese Market for a wander around, then insisted it was time for a drink & some lunch.

Had lunch of chicken & banana flower salad & pork & coconut with Hanoi beer & strange wine near the Ethnic Minority Museum then a tour around the museum.

Then cut the rest of tour as we were so knackered & insisted on going to Sofitel Metropole Hotel, we’re in room 241 & went straight to bed and napped till 5.30pm.

We walked to the lovely Hoàn Kiếm Lake meaning Lake of the Restored Sword we’d passed on the way to the hotel earlier.

According to the legend, emperor Lê Lợi was boating on the lake when a Golden Turtle God {Kim Qui} surfaced and asked for his magic sword, Heaven’s Will. Lợi concluded that Kim Qui had come to reclaim the sword that its master, a local God, the Dragon King Long Vương had given Lợi some time earlier, during his revolt against the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Lợi renamed the lake to commemorate this event, it was formerly known as Luc Thuy meaning Green Water. The Turtle Tower {Thap Rùa} standing on a small island near the centre of lake is linked to the legend.

We walked all around the lake to the old town taking photos as we went.

Tried to buy a coconut to drink & was told coconut $40 decided no!!

We bought some lovely hand made Christmas cards, got done on them tho’.

Stopped at a cafe for beer, coconut, baileys coffee & Russian salad. Whilst there Andrew was talked into a shoe shine, we agreed a price then he wanted more coz he used a bit of glue! He argued for ages, though the lovely waitress tried to get rid of him!

Back at the hotel we repaired to the pool bar for drinks & Andrew had chicken noodle soup & pineapple & coriander soup with ginger sorbet & lime daiquiri.

Fab room & comfy bed, would definitely stay here again & wish we had more time in Hanoi. Our wake up call is at 6.30 am. for our morning pick up.

Sunday 17th Nov

Breakfast in Spice Garden restaurant, then picked up at 8am by Nhat & Hai to drive to Halong Bay - 3½ hours drive. We stopped off at a sculpture & embroidery shop but bought nothing. Andrew is now being called the Laughing Buddha!

Stopped for a coconut to drink then later for fresh baby pineapples - yummy!

Reached Halong Bay Marina at 12.15pm and had longan juice & bought beautiful mother of pearl sandals at a shop on the jetty before boarding. Andrew is the Laughing Buddha here too.

Our cabin is 103 on the Ginger Junk & is lovely with a double bed and big windows, this is a wonderful cruise, fab food beautifully presented with Australian wine & beer at lunch.

After lunch we were taken around Cua Van fishing village where people live on houseboats by a lady who rowed us around on her boat.

Next we had a visit to the lovely Tien Ong Cave located in the Cai Tai Islet that belonged to the Hang Trail Island in Ha Long Bay.

We then went back aboard Ginger to sail to a quiet bay to moor for the night.

Fab dinner after a lovely massage. Relaxed on deck for a while then bed as we are both still very tired.

Monday 18th Nov

Up at 6.30am for a trip to Soi Sim Beach on Ti Top Island & climbed up 130 steps to see the view over the bay & Spider monkeys which I fed bits of fruit to - so cute!

Down on the beach again I had a coconut then back to Ginger to sail back to Hanoi where Nyat & Hai collected us & took us to a pottery shop before going back to the airport for our 2 hour flight to Saigon.

We arrived 7pm, our new tour guide Toun & driver Thien {as in fork tine} collected us & took us to the Majestic an old colonial hotel built in 1925 where we went up to the M bar for a cocktail, it has fabulous views over the river - but very loud music.

Down to the ground floor instead and had a lovely dinner & Wyndham 555 wine at Cyclo restaurant, B52 coffee then to bed as knackered !!

Tuesday 19th Nov

Day tour with Toun & Thien started at the Notre Dame church which is one third the size of the original and beautiful with its Esher style floors & lovely stained glass windows.

We crossed the road to the Central Post Office which used to be the train station and was designed & built by Gustave Eiffel who designed & built the Eiffel Tower a year later.

Onwards then to the Independence Palace for a tour, beautiful windows & some fabulous rooms.

The Chinese market was next, extremely hot with lots of fish for sale, then on to the The First Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine (FITO) museum a really interesting little museum in a stunning very old wooden building. It contains nearly 3,000 items relevant to traditional Vietnamese medicine dating back to the Stone Age. Implements used to prepare traditional medicine: knives, grinders, mortars & pestles, pots & jars.

Objects found in a traditional pharmacy including scales, cabinets, advertising boards, printing mould, spirit gourds, teapots, bowls & lime pots. Coins so old they had fused together & ancient books and documents on traditional Vietnamese medicine.

We watched “A Century of Health Care Experiences”, a documentary film about the history of Vietnam’s traditional medicine. The lady who gave up the tour was very informative, and funny too. We bought some ginger green tea before leaving.

The tour ended at 2pm so time for late lunch- I had pomelo & prawn salad & Andrew had soup then it was back to hotel for a siesta till 7pm.

Then Toun collected us & we went across to road - no mean feat as no traffic stops even at crossings so you have to just stroll across & let the bikes just swerve around you! It’s best to wait till no cars are coming though.

He took us to the oldest wooden boat for our cruise & dine evening on the Saigon river. lovely river cruise with ok dinner, enjoyed being on the water at night with all the city lights to watch as we cruised.

Crossed the busy road back to the hotel – Andrew filmed our crossing on his phone.

Back safely at the hotel for Andrew had a Saigon beer & I had to try a B52 coffee before retiring to bed!

Wednesday 20th Nov

A free day!

After breakfast at the hotel we went up the Bitexco Financial Tower to the 50th floor cafe to look at the view as it’s the tallest building in Saigon - a hazy day again but it was good. Well worth the visit although we decided not to try the Fanny ice cream & settled for coffee instead! Andrew bought me Blue Bear in the shop downstairs.

We wandered around the main streets and went to the Thuong Xa tax trade centre shops where we bought some gorgeous mother of pearl & egg shell lacquer coasters, a cat comb & some beads.

Took photos of the lovely bonsai rectangle park by the roundabout and the lovely old colonial building with gorgeous stained glass windows that is now a shopping mall.

We had lunch at Lemongrass a prawn cocktail for me and the largest king prawn in curry we have ever seen for Andrew, then returned to the hotel to relax.

Picked the right time as it absolutely persisted down not long after.

Later we walked to the night market which was disappointing as there were no traditional things there, just sports t shirts, shoes & tat. Andrew is the happy buddha again, people are rubbing his tummy for luck.

We found a lovely t shirt in Gingko - says Hoi An with little lanterns all over it, that is near Da Nang so we can visit it.

We returned to Lemongrass for dinner as we’d seen hot rock steaks on the menu earlier - they were lovely. Back to the hotel for a last B52 coffee & a beer for Andrew as we leave for Da Nang in the morning. Love this hotel, the staff are all lovely we would definitely recommend it.

Thursday 21st Nov - Andrews 50th birthday!!!!!!

A last breakfast here at the lovely Majestic then it’s time to pack & check out.

We have an hours flight to Da Nang then 15 minute drive to Fusion Maia where we are staying for 8 nights.

It’s a wonderful hotel & spa and our room 2503 is perfect. We have a huge bath with a step down in to it, a walk in shower, an enormous bed & lovely sitting room area.

Outside there is our own private pool with lounging chairs, and a glass table with wicker chair & settee in our garden - it’s perfect!

We ordered a late breakfast in our room, I unpacked then after eating we went to explore. The infinity pool is lovely & looks attached to the sea, the beach is golden sand & the sea is rough & beautiful.

We booked spa treatments for tomorrow, then relaxed in our room for a while.

Later we went for a paddle & walk on the beach before getting ready for dinner at Five the main restaurant. The food’s good, though not as good as Majestic or Ginger as theirs just zinged with flavours!

When we got back to our room there was a birthday cake waiting for Andrew with a card from our Fusionista Emeline and gerbera flowers in our bath - a perfect end to the day.

Friday 22nd Nov

We slept in so after coffee it was time for our spa treatment a foot massage & pedicure for Andrew & a slimming treatment & facial for me. The slimming thing was not much fun but the facial was lovely and relaxing too.

We ordered a late breakfast at Fresh the cafe by the beach then went to explore more & walk in the sea, I got bitten badly last night so a bit of salt helped. Emeline got some phenergan cream for me too which helped the itching.

A quiet relaxing day with dinner at Five restaurant again in the evening, nice Australian wine & Tiger beer for Andrew.

Saturday 23rd Nov

Coffee by our pool then went for the buffet breakfast at Five which was lovely, lots of fresh fruit, yoghurt, spinach soufflé and Pho noodle soup for Andrew too.

Afterwards we got a taxi into Da Nang and wandered around the market & shops for the rest of the morning & had a drink at a little cafe overlooking the river & the Golden Dragon Bridge a metallic dragon embedded in a bridge 1,864 feet long that shoots fire out of its head. The bridge was opened on March 29 to mark the 38th anniversary of the city being taken by the North. 6 lanes of traffic pass under 2,500 LED lights that illuminate the steel dragon, designed after one from the Ly Dynasty. It can also spray water from its mouth.

We wandered by the river looking at all the marble statues before getting a taxi back to the Maia for our spa treatments at 4pm - a full body massage with hot oil for me and a Thai fusion massage for Andrew followed by an aromatherapy flower bath to share in our bath in our room.

Hang & Thoa our therapists came to our room and filled our bath with scented oils, rose petals and gerberas for us to relax in, also arranged roses all around the bath and a heart in rose petals around a towel for us to step out on to - very lovely, romantic & relaxing too.

At 6.30pm we caught the bus into Hoi An and were dropped off by the river with all the restaurants & shops lit by 100’s of lanterns - it’s a stunningly beautiful sight.

That’s why our T shirt has all the lanterns - it’s Hoi An’s signature.

We ate at the Italian restaurant Good Morning Vietnam - lovely meal of gnocchi & pizza. Wandered around the night market with my happy buddha & bought a lovely beaded purple & black evening bag for me & a hat fridge magnet. Caught the bus back at 9.30pm - must come back for a proper wander, it’s a gorgeous town.

Sunday 24th Nov

After breakfast Andrew had a back, neck & shoulder massage & holistic head massage & I had a body envelope in mud & warm pressure massage – all wonderful & very relaxing I had Hang as my therapist again.Afterwards we went back to our room for a nap.

Had lovely lunch at Fresh walked on the beach, read & generally relaxed all day.

Vietnamese barbecue in the evening at Five - was ok but nothing special though the coconut cocktail at the start was good.

Monday 25th Nov

After breakfast we relaxed for a while then went to the spa Andrew had the mud envelope & warm pressure massage that I had yesterday & I had a bamboo body scrub & Thai fusion massage - bit of a work out!

Afterwards we caught the bus into Hoi An & wandered around, went to Ms Ly for excellent white rose dim sum for Andrew – he was really impressed and a drink.

We then looked around the local indoor market - very hot.

Went to Bebe the tailors recommended by the hotel to do some made to measure shopping & ordered Andrew 3 shirts for work in blue cotton & 3 casual silk, in electric blue, dark green & burgundy, & 2 pairs of black cashmere trousers. Then 2 fabulous silk shirts for me two tone red & black & turquoise & green.

Bought a dark red bamboo fibre shirt, & a purple cotton silk mix top for me, a Good Morning Vietnam T shirt to share, some silk cards for Janey, bookmarks for the girls at work & an evening bag for Jens secret Santa at work too.

Ate at Green Mango - fab dinner of steak, mushrooms & mash – no room for pudding unfortunately.

Then bus back & off to bed as worn out again as we were out walking for 7 hours.

Tuesday 26th Nov

Today Andrew has a massage & facial & I have a foot therapy & facial at 10am. Teing who did my treatments today was great, but I missed Hang my usual therapist.

We’d decided that as the sun is shining we’d go to Monkey Mountain but our driver wouldn’t stop where we were supposed to get out and walk to see the monkeys.

We carried on to visit the female Buddha who is 16 metres high and walked around the lovely gardens that surround her. She is a serene Buddha and is lovely she is also known as the Goddess of Mercy, but is only 3 years old and was built by the government as a tourist attraction apparently.

Returned to hotel earlier than planned, Andrew talked to Sheena who had booked this tour about not having had our monkey stop which was the point of our excursion.

I sat in our garden by the pool reading & catching up with this diary.

Later we caught the bus back to Hoi An for our clothes fitting. All Andrews shirts need to be larger & trousers need taking in & my shirts sleeves need to be shorter.

We ate at White Marble - 4 starters; chicken & banana blossom salad, Hoi An money bags, older sisters pork & prawn rolls and calamari all lovely. Went back to Green Mango for mango and sticky coconut rice & banana fritters with ice cream for pudding both gorgeous.

Back to Maia by taxi as no room on the bus, chatted to Francis who’s here from Singapore for a conference & shared the taxi back - lovely man to chat to.

We got a margarita each from Fresh and lay on a beach settee watching the sea & relaxing before bed.

Wednesday 27th Nov

Slept in till 9am after being up before 6 for a while & chatting to a puss cat in our garden. Breakfast at Five, usual fruit & yoghurt for me & pho noodle soup for Andrew, tried beef tournedos which was lovely & the soursop jam this morning - it’s gorgeous.

Back to our room to have a bath & relax till we catch the bus back to Hoi An for our final fitting & lunch. Everything fits beautifully this time, all very well made, we also got black & wood shoes fitted for me - they are lovely too.

Ate lunch at Riet Treat fabulous coconut prawns, white rose dumplings & stuffed wontons then headed back for the bus.

Siesta time, slept till Emeline phoned to offer us a trip to the monkeys again with a guide & driver this time - complimentary as we were so disappointed with our last tour, so we’re going to try again tomorrow at 10am - she is such a darling.

Went for our spa treatment at 5.45pm a fusion feeling each which neither of us rated much.

Walked 20 minutes down to Murphy’s Steakhouse for fillet steak, wedges & veggies & highly recommended as best steak around this area - fabulous with the usual local Biere Larue for Andrew & wine for me. It’s not a romantic restaurant, basically an Irish pub with a restaurant upstairs but the food is worth the lack of atmosphere.

Back at Maia we had a drink by the sea on a beach settee listening to the waves crashing before bed.

Thursday 28th Nov

Our penultimate day, we fly home tomorrow night. Woke up to persisting rain at 6am. Saw Emeline at breakfast & she suggested rebooking the monkeys for tomorrow due to the torrential rain & mist.

Lovely breakfast of fruit, yoghurt & passion fruit & tried the avocado smoothies - delicious, so thought of making a cold avocado soup with bacon bits sometime. The lime smoothie was delicious too.

Back to our room to relax as it’s too wet to do anything.

I have a rose floral polish & a facial booked today, as we’d changed the time I didn’t get Hang & her replacement was great on the polish but pretty rough with the facial - hope I don’t get her tomorrow since we’ve had to rearrange again.

Off to Hoi An at 4.30pm in the rain for a last wander & dinner, we’ll miss this place. Bought more T shirts in Gingko two for Andrew & one for me, also another two floaty tops in the silk cotton mix.

Had a lovely cocktail at Before & Now then dinner at Green Mango again chicken curry with coconut rice & 4 sauces for Andrew & salmon for me, this is a wonderful restaurant. We bought a salt & pepper set for Barry & Pete there too.

Got soaked going back for the bus then back in our room Emeline had arranged a heart in flower petals on our bed, a lovely flower bath and hand made chocolates in the sitting room too with a lovely farewell card. She really is lovely, what a wonderful end to our last evening here.

Friday 29th Nov

Andrew went for breakfast while I began packing. At 10am we went to Monkey Mountain and this time we saw some monkeys. Ho our guide was great to chat to & we managed to get a couple of monkey pix.

Back at Maia I had breakfast & Andrew had lunch, then we finished packing before our 2.30pm spa treatment. One last warm pressure massage & a hand therapy treatment each - mine with Hang. Then we had a steam bath & shower & tea before saying goodbye to lovely Hang – I will miss her muchly.

Sat around with a cocktail reading then went for a last meal at Five, Emeline came to say goodbye to us as we reached Five, we will miss all the staff here they are all lovely.

A last chicken & banana flower salad for me & last pho noodle soup for Andrew, then steak & stir fry to follow & a coconut brûlée to finish.

We were collected at 7pm to go to Da Nang airport, 1 hour 15minutes flight then a 2 hour wait at Ho Chi Minh airport before 13½ hour flight to Gatwick. Help!!!

Saturday 30th Nov

23½ hours later home safe & all is ok. Our beautiful Mayhem still seems no different thanks heavens.

We went to Super Sausage for breakfast with Nick & many thanks to him for cat sitting our entire holiday enabling us to go away, as we couldn’t have left Mayhem otherwise.

Bed time now with our beloved cats to catch up with some much needed sleep.

What a wonderful holiday we have had.