Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Back in Hải Phòng after 9 Months at Home

I actually left home last Friday and flew to Sydney. It is always difficult saying goodbye to my precious family, and this time was no different... only exacerbated by the frustration of the ridiculous new set-up at Coffs airport. Now everyone (not just passengers) has to go through the security check and there is only one, so with two planes departing at the same time, the queue was ridiculous. Greg had arrived earlier and he wasted 15 minutes in the queue, but by the time Katie, Gemma and Caelyn arrived the queue to get through was all the way to the terminal doors.They just made it as I was being paged to board the plane. So we only had time for a very quick teary squeeze before I had to go. Katie nearly caused a security crisis because she left her handbag at the screening console and ran through to reach me. The lady hauled her back for a search because it's illegal to leave unattended luggage!!!!  Talk about over-kill. It constantly irritates me that our lives are so compromised by the fear of terrorism. Talk about punish the innocent and empower the maniacs who want to destroy world peace.... but enough of my pet peeve....

I stopped over in Sydney for the weekend so I could attend IsaUni at Parramatta - an Isagenix Conference, which was excellent. I learned heaps and came away inspired to build my business in the Wellness Industry.

On Monday morning I caught the River Cat down the Parramatta River to Circular Quay. It was a very pleasant boat ride. At first the river is quite narrow, with bush and sandstone cliffs along the banks.

But soon it opens out and the closer you get to Sydney Harbour the more beautiful the houses along the banks. There are many big old brick houses with sandstone boat-sheds just like the one my family used to live in at Longueville. I have many fond memories of those days when I was finishing school and beginning University living in such a gorgeous place.

Our journey took us under the Harbour Bridge, past the Opera House to dock at Circular Quay, the Sydney ferry terminal.

Since I was hauling around my big suitcase, I didn't wander far even though I had all day. I found a nice cafe at the wharf and enjoyed brunch and made a few phone calls for an hour or so, then caught the train to the Airport, where I found a comfy corner in a Coffee Club and typed up all my notes from IsaUni so I could pass them on to my team.

Finally, at 10pm, I left Sydney - flying with Cathay Pacific.

It was a 91/2 hour flight to Hong Kong with a 21/2 hour stopover then another 2 hour flight to Hà Nội with Dragon Airlines. We landed in Hà Nội at 9:30am (three hours behind Coffs Harbour time).  

I had booked a room at Little Hanoi Diamond where we stayed last year and on the taxi ride to the hotel I felt like I hadn't even been away.

After a shower and a power nap (I managed to get very little sleep on the plane) I went for a walk. I love Hà Nội.

The lotuses are in bloom on Hoàn Kiếm lake. They are such a beautiful colour.

I visited the Bánh Khúc lady on Cầu Gỗ and enjoyed a taste of one of my favourite street foods for lunch.... ahhhh!


 And back to the Little Hanoi Diamond...

In the evening, I caught up with Will and Toni and their friend Peter (another Irishman) at a restaurant called Highway 4 at Westlake.

We shared a delicious meal... which included crickets!!  First time I've eaten crickets - really it is the sauce you can taste, so they were great  LOL

They all teach in a large bi-lingual International School. Toni is head of the Kindergarten/Primary school, Will teaches high school maths and science, and Peter has a year 5 class. After dinner we moseyed on down to the lake to sit on deckchairs enjoying the balmy evening looking out on the lake... so very relaxing! But by 9 I was too tired to keep my eyes open so I jumped into a cab and came back to the hotel. 

Hà Nội is all gearing up for the Mid-Autumn Festival next week and there are a couple of streets that are a riot of colour, loaded up with toys and decorations for sale.

After a very good night's sleep, I packed my bag one last time and caught a train to Hải Phòng. Khánh was there to meet me. So good to see him!! But not for long - he will leave for Germany in a couple of weeks to live and study for at least 4 years. Today he was extremely patient and helpful as I tried to decide whether to stay at the Hải Phòng Star Hotel on Thiên Lôi Street, which is a big old place not far from where I used to live, or a smaller, new, boutique Hotel - Quán Nam -  which is very popular with the teachers, on the other side of  Lạch TrayỦy came to help as I looked at rooms in both hotels and several of the teachers gave me their advice, but for me it finally came down to the biggest room with the biggest windows. So for now I am here in the Hải Phòng Star Hotel on the 4th floor ... plenty of opportunity for exercise right there....!!

By the time I we had my bags up here, it was after 2pm and we were starving hungry, so we went for a brisk walk all the way to the Bún Chả restaurant, where the ladies were getting ready for a well earned rest. Still they kindly served us and I savoured every bite! We completed the circuit and walked down Văn Cao. I saw Thảo the tea lady, and also Hà from the little cafe down the lane where I lived last year. They waved and smiled when they recognised me. Not much has changed... When we got back to my room, we played Tenzies for a while (a fun dice game I brought with me), then  Khanh left.. and I realised I hadn't taken any photos!  

This is my room...

And this is the view from my balcony 

In the evening Tùng picked me up and we went out for dinner... Bún Chả!! Delicious. Sitting there in the cool of the evening was wonderful. Feels like I never left!  Tùng is studying Japanese now, but his English is still good. Unfortunately I can't say the same for my Vietnamese!  I have forgotten nearly everything. Poor me! 

After Tùng dropped me off, Xuân came over with a beautiful bunch of roses!  He is working now for LG so I will only see him in the evening and on weekends. He looks great and is enjoying his work. It is lovely to see him thriving.  

And that was day one back in Hải Phòng... What a treat to see Khánh, Ủy, Tùng, and Xuân !  Now I just need to adjust to the very hard bed...

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