I’m now in Hanoi, Vietnam, and I sense it is going to be a very interesting place.
I left Bangkok this morning and took a Qatar Airlines flight lasting 1 hour and 45 minutes. Bangkok Airport is very impressive and has one of the most upscale shopping areas that I’ve seen in an airport. The high-end names like Cartier, Prada and Bulgari all have a presence in the airport. Even the airport food is good – I had my combined breakfast/lunch at the airport.
Once I reached Hanoi, the difference in temperature was immediately felt. It is quite chilly here. I’m staying at the Hanoi Elegance Ruby Hotel, located in the old quarter. I was met at the airport by a hotel representative and shown to a waiting mini-bus to get me to the hotel. The drive to the hotel was interesting.
People were working in the fields wearing traditional straw conical hats. Motorcycles were everywhere, with many loaded up with all types of products stacked on the back, or hanging off the sides. Drivers sound their horns regularly, warning anyone in front of them that they are about to overtake. Many motorcycle riders were negotiating the traffic whilst texting on their cell-phones. As we got into the old quarter, the rush hour traffic was even more frenetic.
Once I got to the Elegance Ruby, I was impressed by the service provided by the reception staff. Whilst the registration process was taken care of, I was shown to a couch and provided with a fresh watermelon juice. I was then given a detailed orientation of local attractions and restaurants and was provided with a map. During this process, my luggage was taken to the room for me. I was then escorted to my room where the beds had rose petals and towels wrapped in an elephant design. And there was a welcome basket of fruit on the desk. A great first impression.
After checking in, I headed to the nearby Mido Spa for a massage but opted for a 2 hour 15 minute spa package (steam room, massage and facial). First time I’ve ever had a facial!! The whole spa treatment cost the equivalent of $37. I think the jet-lag has finally caught up with me. I’ve been feeling tired all day and I fell asleep several times during the massage and facial treatment. Going to bed early tonight.
After the spa, I went for some authentic Vietnamese food at Bun Cha, a very basic road-side eatery that is rated as one of the top ten Hanoi street food experiences by Lonely Planet. There is no menu – just a single option that is brought to you within a couple of minutes of sitting down. Today’s dinner included vermicelli noodles, spring rolls, a bowl of what I think was pork in a broth with some veggies and a plate full of fresh herbs that can be added to the dish. Dinner, including a Hanoi Beer, cost me 105,000 Vietnamese Dong – that’s about $4.67.
I’m hoping to be out early in the morning to see the morning market (it opens at 6.00am).