Thursday, October 30, 2014

End of the holiday for Jordan and Katie, beginning of a holiday for me!

This morning we left Hải Phòng at 8am. Tiến, and Đạt all came to say goodbye to the girls. We took these photos but didn't realise that the camera lens was still cold from the air-conditioning and the humidity outside fogged up the lens.  So unknowing, we took these farewell photos and away we went!

Miss Thủy had organised a car to drive us to Hà Nội with all our luggage. The driver, Tuấn, speaks English, so it was a very comfortable trip and we arrived at Little Hanoi Diamond at 10:15am....only to find that our room wasn't ready, since checkout here isn't till 12.  Jordie was feeling a bit carsick so we settled down in the reception area to wait....Katie watching Korean dramas on her iPad, Jordan playing with her iPod, and me checking Facebook and now blogging on my iPad.  How different things are in this century compared to 15 years ago!

When we  got to our room, we tried to get Jordie to have a snooze, but that wasn't going to happen, so we went for a walk instead. Katie had decided to buy a couple of gorgeous elephants she saw last time, but when we went to the shop they'd been sold! So she was very disappointed.  At Jordie's request, we ended up at Highlands Coffee Lounge again and she ordered her new favourite...Cookies and Cream shake. It was very comfortable relaxing in the huge leather lounges enjoying the fan.

Back at the hotel we hung out till 7:15, when we caught a taxi to "Chicken. St" to meet Will. Unfortunately Pete had to work late, so he couldn't make it. So once again we gorged ourselves on succulent, tender chicken, with sweet sticky sauce dripping off our fingers....

After we'd finished, Jordie wanted to go to the toilet, so I took her to the back (We always eat on little stools and tables out on the street).  Anyway, when I found the bathroom, off the "kitchen" it was quite an eye-opener!  Unbelievably filthy and chaotic! I was sorry I hadn't brought my camera, because seeing is believing!   Just as well everything we eat here has been scorched on the barbq! Haha

After Chicken St, we caught a taxi to a karaoke bar Will knows where they play anything you want from You Tube, so the four of us sang our little hearts out till after 11pm!

By then Jordie was out on her feet, so we jumped in a taxi to go back to the hotel.  After a couple of blocks it was obvious that he was driving around all over the place, so Will made him stop, berated him while we got out...even though he'd been taking us in the opposite direction by then, we weren't far from Bat Dan St so we decided to just walk. Jordie and I walked back, and Will and Katie found a tiny little bar where Will has a tab, so they could stretch the night out a little longer.  We're all hoping that Will will come to Coffs during his holiday break at Tet in February....that would be AWESOME!

FRIDAY, 31st October
After breakfast, I went for a walk to get some American Dollars to take with me to Cambodia. I withdrew some dong at a Vietcom bank, then walked to Ha Trung street to exchange them into dollars....easy as, great exchange rates...sweet!  Today we had to be at the airport by mid afternoon, so after we packed our bags and checked out of our room we went for a walk to find somewhere for our last meal. We ended up finding this fabulous place... a Korean BBQ Buffet for only $11, on the top floor of the building we looked out on from Highland Coffee!

 Great view out over the square and the lake.


 We will definitely be back here...great food, great view, great value!

On our way back to the hotel Katie and Jordan bought one more thing... a really cute pair of pyjamas they had admired every time we walked past this shop right near the hotel.

Then it was the long taxi ride out to the airport. The girls left first so they went through the security gates and I stood and watched and waved till they were called to board their flight. Very mixed feelings that I wasn't going with them...but I expect the next three weeks will go very quickly and it will be my turn to go home.

But tonight, I went to Cambodia instead!  Hanoi to Siem Reap is just a 2 hour flight... best way I know to renew a visa - go somewhere exotic that's nearby! and Angkor Wat has always been on my bucket list!  After I passed through immigration and got my visa, I caught a tuk-tuk to my hotel. It's much hotter here, being much further south than Hà Nội

So here I am, in a big room all set to go and see Angkor tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Back in Nguyễn Quyết Tiến's hometown...An Kỳ

What a lovely day! This. Morning, eight of us caught a bus to go and visit Tiến's hometown...Graham and Lee, Jenny, Tiến, Lien, Katie, Jordan and me. 

In a bit over an hour we disembarked in a nearby town. Lee bought some cakes and I bought an orchid for hostess gifts, and Tiến organised a couple of cars to take us the rest of the way.

Only Katie and I had been here before so it was delightful to see the reactions from the others as they experienced the tranquility of Tiến's village. This year, his father was home as well, and as we've come to expect, the warm welcome extended by the family had all of us immediately feeling at home. Of course, his gorgeous little nieces are irresistible!


We settled in for a cool drink and had a look around... it's so serene and beautiful here!

We all trouped down to the village centre to buy some beer for lunch, taking photos along the way and saying hello to the neighbours.

When we got back, preparations were well under way for lunch....

Check out the enormous fish cooking in the traditional kitchen...  

 The littlies were fed first...

Then it was our turn!

The lunch they served us was an absolute feast, and every bit of it came from their own garden...even the chicken and the fish!

After lunch we relaxed in the courtyard while our hostesses cleaned up. 

They gently waved away our offers to help, so while we were waiting Katie began braiding Jordan's hair...then Lien's, then mine, Jenny's, then both Tiến's sisters and his Mum!




 What about Graham???

After the mid-day nap time, the farmers were back at work..

Photo bomb...

Once again we went for a walk, this time to look around the village...




To the delight and amusement of the owner, we stopped for a cold beer at the same little shop where Graham had stocked up for lunch. Very refreshing on a hot afternoon.


There was a discussion which ended up in a full blown argument between the shop owner and another lady who pulled up. Apparently it was about money that had been lent and not repaid. In the end our shop owner won the argument and when the other lady drove away with her tail between her legs we all cheered and clapped ... to the huge amusement of the locals.


Can't resist taking photos of these stunning old walls.

  All too soon it was time to say goodbyes.  Such a beautiful family.

All of us had a fabulous day...

And as we walked down the lane to meet the cars that would take us back to the bus, there they were, waving us goodbye...