Vietnam – Day 7 – Hanoi

Today I woke up at 5:30am. Notice a trend here; I’m not really able to wake up at a normal time yet, despite being here a week. Breakfast at the O’Galley Majestic Hotel & Spa started at 6:30am, and I was starving, so I waited until it opened and rushed down to the basement. I was not disappointed at all; there was so many different options to choose from at the buffet.

After breakfast I went and visited the famous Hanoi rail track again, as they were on the way to my next stop which was a wall of ceramic murals along the Durong Tran Quang Khai highway, which was a few kilometer walk away. The tracks were less lively during the morning, than last night, but there were still some people doing food prep, and building repairs.

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The ceramic murals were quite intricate, and stretch a total length of 6.5 kilometers (4.0 miles). They were developed between 2007 and 2010 to celebrate the Millennial Anniversary of Hanoi.

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After visiting the ceramic murals I walked to the nearby Dong Xuan Market. One word can describe this place; chaos. This market has everything you could possibly dream of in one place, with some tremendous deals to be had on clothing, electronics, jewelry, etc. It’s absolutely packed and seems like a tremendous fire hazard waiting to happen, but it was still unique to see. I didn’t purchase anything there. The market was originally built by the French in 1889, and has been renovated many times since, with the latest iteration in 1994 after a fire broke out, almost destroying the market entirely… As you can see not much has changed. I noticed a ton of expired fire extinguishers stuffed underneath the escalators and stairs…

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After visiting the Dong Xuan Market I visited Bach Ma Temple. The temple was originally built in 1010, by the Ly Dynasty. It honors a white horse, which was thought to be an incarnation of a local river god. The temple was rebuilt in the 18th century after severe flooding damaged the original building.

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After visiting Bach Ma Temple I strolled over to Hoan Kiem Lake, which means “Lake of the Returned Sword”. An old wives tale suggests that in 1428, Emperor Le Loi was boating on the lake when the Golden Turtle God named Kim Qui surfaced and asked for his magic sword, Heaven’s Will. The Emperor came to the conclusion that Kim Qui had come to reclaim the sword that it’s master, Dragon King Long Vuong had given Loi during the revolt against Ming China. The Emperor gave the sword back to the Golden Turtle after finishing fighting the Chinese. I relaxed for a bit along the lake, taking pictures of the Turtle Tower, The Huc Bridge, and Jade Island.

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After relaxing along Hoan Kiem Lake it was time to find some lunch. I settled on a Japanese restaurant called Moto-San. I decided to have some ramen noodle bowl and some sushi while enjoying all the racy propaganda art strewn around the interior of the building.

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After lunch I walked back to the hotel, as I was feeling pretty exhausted and just wanted to relax at the pool. I got back to the hotel at around 2:30pm and relaxed by the pool with some beers until around 5:00pm.

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At 5:00pm I walked around the government area near my hotel and took some pictures of the buildings before walking to the very famous Bun Cha Huong Lien Obama, where former US President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate on May 23rd 2016.

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After dinner I took a GRAB back to the hotel for 32000 Dong ($2 CDN). I had to pack my bags as I was off to Ninh Binh early. tomorrow morning.

Check back tomorrow when I travel to the countryside and visit Ninh Binh, also known as the Inland Ha Long Bay.

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Vietnam – Day 4 – Ba Na Hills

I was woken up by a noise at 4:15am and couldn’t get back to bed. I edited some photos and wrote some of my blog while waiting for the restaurant to open for breakfast. I went for breakfast at 7:00am and  had Mi Quang, which is a noodle dish that has quail eggs. It was absolutely delicious. After breakfast I waited for the tour bus to pick me up for a tour that I had booked to Ba Na Hills, which is a French resort located in the Truong Son Mountains west of the city of Da Nang. The tour cost roughly 1,345,000 Dong ($85 CND).

Ba Na Hills was built in 1919 by French colonists and is located 1500 metres above sea level. The resort has a view of the East Sea and nearby mountains. Being so high up the resort offers substantially cooler temperatures than the cities below, with the average temperatures hovering in the high teens or low twenties.

The 120km trip from my villa to Ba Na Hills took roughly 1.75 hours. On the bus I was sitting next to a girl from Germany named Yasemin. She was really sweet. She was travelling with a friend but they were fighting so they were sitting in different parts of the bus. She also had a very touching private story that she told me, but it melted my heart. She’s such a kind gentle person.

On arrival we boarded the Ba Na Cable Car to the top of the hill. The Ba Na Cable Car, opened on 29 March 2013, holds the world record for the longest non-stop single track cable car at 5801 metres (19032 feet)  long.

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After arriving at the top we first visited the newest attraction to the resort; The Golden Bridge. The Golden Bridge is a 150 metre (490 foot) long pedestrian bridge that was built in 2018. The bridge is designed to connect the cable car station with the gardens above, thus avoiding a steep incline, and to provide a scenic overlook and tourist attraction. The bridge is designed to appear to have two giant stone hands supporting the structure and loops back around to itself.

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After walking along The Golden Bridge we then took another cable car up to the gardens above. The gardens were absolutely beautiful and kind of gave the vibe of Alice In Wonderland. After viewing the gardens we then visited the Ling Ung Pagoda and large Buddha statue, which stands fairly tall at roughly 27 metres (89 feet).

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After that we sat down for a rather disappointing lunch buffet. Everything was cold and chewy. During lunch it started to rain very heavily, and then the power went out for roughly 15 minutes before the power generators kicked in. Since it was raining out we decided to explore the indoor Fantasy Park. I rode on the Bumper Cars, Alpine Coaster, and a shooting game.

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It was approaching 3:00pm and unfortunately it was time to head back down to the tour bus. I didn’t get to experience about half of Ba Na Hills due to the weather and time constraints unfortunately. I was dropped off back in town at roughly 5:30pm and decided to eat again at Banh Mi Phuong for dinner. After dinner I walked back to the Villa and went to bed early at 9:00pm.

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Vietnam – Day 3 – Hoi An

The next day I woke up at 5:30am. I didn’t realize this at first but I had the whole villa to myself; none of the other 12 rooms were booked. The villa had a restaurant that opened at 7:00am so I waited for the restaurant to open. I had some beef pho for breakfast. I borrowed one of their bicycles for free to ride into the ancient town of Hoi An. I explored around the local market, wandering up and down the streets to take in the sights, including the famous covered Japanese Bridge, which was built in 1719. It was starting to get too hot to bear at around noon, so I rode the bicycle back to the villa. I looked on the weather reports and noticed that it was 37 degrees, but due to humidity it felt like 46 degrees.

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After relaxing by the pool for a bit and drinking a few beers I decided I was hungry so I borrowed the bicycle again in search of food. I settled on a place called Pho Co Hoi An. I had some beef pho and a local beer. I was getting tired so I rode back towards the villa, quickly stopping for some bottled water, a bag of Doritos, and some more beer. The villa had a good supply of bottled water and beer, but I wanted to save some money by purchasing it at the store instead.

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I had what was supposed to be a short nap, but ended up sleeping from 3:00pm until 8:00pm. After waking up I walked into town and went to famous Banh Mi Phuong for dinner. Anthony Bourdain ate there a few years ago and featured it on his television show called Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Banh Mi is a baguette filled with savory meats, spices and a few vegetables such as shaved carrots and a bit of lettuce. To describe the taste of the Banh Mi at this particular restaurant I would say it’s like having Pho in a bun. It was so delicious, and very inexpensive; only 50000 Dong ($3.15 CDN) for a Banh Mi and a beer.

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After dinner I walked around and explored the night market, and watched people floating down the river in the love boats, as well as watch people making wishes with lit lanterns and placing them in the water. It was getting late so I decided to walk back to the villa. It was around 11:00pm by now so it was time for me to go to bed.

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Chile – Day 13 – Lago Grey Glacier Tour

Today we woke up at 7:30am and made breakfast as well as more salami sandwiches for lunch. We left the loft at 8:30am and drove the 2.5 hours towards Torres Del Paine National Park. The drive went slower this time as traffic was heavier and there was some construction on the road.

We checked in at the main office before entering the park and heading towards the Lago Grey Hotel, where we checked in for the Lago Grey glacier tour. The hotel lobby is absolutely beautiful and overlooks Lago Grey, and you can even see chunks of icebergs floating!

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After checking into the tour at the hotel we were asked to drive a few kilometers down the road to this beautiful cafe where we could relax until noon before starting a one hour trek along the lake to the catamaran. Lago Grey is fairly low at this time of the year so the catamaran can’t come to the hotel. I had a coffee and Catherine had a diet coke. We decided it would be an opportune time to also eat lunch.

After relaxing in the cafe we started the trek towards where the catamaran docks. The trek starts out by crossing a rickety suspension bridge that only 6 people at a time can occupy it. There was a park warden to ensure the bridge was not overloaded with people.

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The trek continued through a forested area for about 15 minutes before ending up at the edge of Lago Grey. We walked along a raised sediment area of the lake towards where the catamaran docks. We ran into Martin & Sophie again at the waiting area and talked for about 15 minutes before the Catamaran arrived.

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After boarding the catamaran we were instructed to wear life jackets when we go outside, but we didn’t have to wear them inside like we did for the Magdalena tour. We were onboard the catamaran for roughly 3 hours and got to see 2 different glaciers at the opposite end of the lake. On the return trip we had some pisco sours made from 10000 year old ice; they were delicious and the ice was the clearest ice I’ve ever seen. The wind picked up significantly on the way back and made from some slightly choppy waves, but it was no problem for our catamaran.

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After docking we were hit with some 120-160 kph winds and it was comical watching ourselves and others barely able to walk back along the lake. It was already 4:30pm by the time we got back to the truck so we decided to drive back to the loft and make dinner.

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Catherine cooked us some fajitas for dinner and then we watched an episode of Mayday before going to bed. Mayday is a Canadian documentary investigating air crashes, near-crashes, hijackings, etc. There are currently 19 seasons and the show is still going strong. It is one of my favorite shows on television.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, or the day after for the next installment in my Chile series!

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2018-05-21 – US Route 66 Day 5

Today we drove 328 miles from Miami, Oklahoma to Clinton, Oklahoma. We ended up staying at The Glancy Motel, one of the original motels on Route 66 that is still open. We saw the following sights today:

  • Old Ribbon Road, Afton
  • Afton Station, Afton
  • Will Rogers Archway, Vinita
  • Clantons Café, Vinata
  • Hotel Vinita, Vinita
  • 1940’s Gas Stations, Vinita
  • Phillips Gull Wing, Vinita
  • Totem Pole Park, Foyil
  • Belvidere Mansion, Claremore
  • Dot’s Café, Claremore
  • Blue Whale, Catoosa
  • Circle Cinema, Tulsa
  • Meadow Gold Sign, Tulsa
  • Boston Unite Church, Tulsa
  • Vickery Phillips 66, Tulsa
  • Mid Continent Tower, Tulsa
  • Philtower Building, Tulsa
  • Cyrus Avery Plaza, Tulsa
  • Cities Service, Tulsa
  • Waite Phillips Station, Sapulpa
  • Rock Creek Bridge, Sapulpa
  • Heart of 66 Museum and Giant Gas Pump, Sapulpa
  • Rock Café, Stroud
  • Coca Cola Mural, Stroud
  • Skyliner Motel, Stroud
  • World’s First Natural Gas Sphere, Davenport
  • Murals, Davenport
  • Phillips 66, Chandler
  • Lincoln Motel, Chandler
  • Seaba Station, Warwick
  • Round Barn, Arcadia
  • Pops on 66, Arcadia
  • Tower Theatre, Oklahoma
  • Gold Dome, Oklahoma
  • Milk Bottle, Oklahoma
  • Lake Overholser Bridge, Bethany
  • Flour Mill, Yukon
  • Robert’s Grill, El Reno
  • Jackson Conoco, El Reno
  • El Reno Motel, El Reno

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2018-05-20 – US Route 66 Day 4

Today we drove 229 miles from St. Robert, Missouri to Miami, Oklahoma. We ended up staying at The Hamptons by Hilton. We saw the following sights today:

  • Hooker Cut, Devils Elbow. Hooker Cut is the first dual carriageway on Route 66.
  • Elbow Inn and BBQ, Devils Elbow
  • Sheldons Market, Devils Elbow
  • Frog Rock, Waynesville
  • Uranus Fudge Factory, St. Robert
  • Gascozark Café Remains, Gascozark
  • Munger Moss Motel, Lebanon
  • Starlite Lanes, Lebanon
  • Town of Marshfield
  • Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, Springfield
  • Rest Haven Court, Springfield
  • Steak n Shake, Springfield
  • Abou Ben Adhem Shrine Mosque, Springfield
  • Sky Eleven Springfield. This high rise was built in 1911. It was an office building that started falling apart in the early 2000’s. They restored it recently and turned it into some very swanky apartment buildings. Monthly rent is only around $600/mth.
  • Rock Fountain Court Motel, Springfield
  • Gay Parita Station, Everton
  • Spencers Gas Station, Miller
  • Boots Court Motel, Carthage
  • 66 Drive In Theatre, Carthage
  • Superman Museum, Carterville
  • 1920’s Service Station, Webb City
  • 1950’s Service Station, Webb City
  • Plaza Motel, Joplin
  • Cars on Route 66, Galena
  • Town of Galena
  • Baxter Springs Rainbow Bridge, Baxter Springs
  • Town of Baxter Springs
  • Dairy King, Commerce
  • Allens Conoco, Commerce
  • Kuku, Miami. We ate here. We both had a cheeseburger with a raspberry milkshake that was so thick you couldn’t drink it through a straw.
  • Coleman Theatre, Miami
  • Vintage Gas Station, Miami

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2018-05-19 – US Route 66 Day 3

Today we drove 156 miles from St. Louis, Illinois to St. Robert, Missouri. We ended up staying at Studio Z, a pretty swanky chic hotel in St. Robert for only $60 per night. We ended up having a beer in the bar and chatting with the woman running the hotel. We saw the following sights today:

  • Chain of Rocks Bridge, Illinois
  • St. Louis Arch, St. Louis
  • Ted Drewes Frozen Custurd, St. Louis
  • Musuem of Transport, St. Louis
  • Assured Automotive, Eureka
  • Hot / Cold Towers, St. Clair
  • Meramec Caverns, Stanton
  • Circle Inn Malt Shop, Bourbon
  • Bourbon Water Towers, Bourbon
  • Mural in Cuba, Cuba
  • Missouri Hick BBQ, Cuba. Dad had St. Louis Ribs with Mustard Potato Salad and Baked Beans. I had a Brisket Sandwich with Salad.
  • Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba
  • World’s 2nd Largest Rocking Chari, Fanning
  • Mule Trading Post, St. James.
  • Stonehenge Replica, Rolla

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