Onward to Da Nang, but not by train

Onward to Da Nang, but not by train
[Classes began last week, so please accept my apologies for delaying this post.] HANOI, VIETNAM — Now that I had settled on visiting Da Nang, in hopes of finding some warmer weather and an ocean view, the question was how to get there. My first plan was to take the overnight train from Hanoi to Da Nang. With that in mind, I figured lodging at the Mango Hotel (above), which is right next to the Hanoi train station, made sense. It was only about $22 a night and offered free breakfast, and I could walk to it from my Airbnb. Once at the hotel (which is not bad, by the way), I set about finding out how to buy train tickets for a departure two days later. The cost ranged from $40 for a soft seat to $60 for a soft sleeper berth, and the trip would take about 15 to 16 hours. On a lark, I also checked airfares from Hanoi to Da Nang. It was cheaper to fly! Only $36 for a round-trip ticket to Da Nang. So guess what I did. My lodging in Da Nang was another Airbnb within walking distance to My Khe beach. For ...

Some sightseeing in Hanoi — Hoan Kiem Lake 1

Some sightseeing in Hanoi -- Hoan Kiem Lake
HANOI — My days in Hanoi were fairly low key. For one thing, the weather was less than ideal: damp and chilly but for one day. And for two days, I was zoned out with a bad headcold, which required me to work double-time to meet an editing deadline. But once that job was complete, I wanted to do at least one or two touristy things, given that I was smack in the middle of one of Hanoi’s historical districts. The Old Quarter has a history going back several hundred years or more. I took two self-guided walking tours. The first was to West Lake (Hồ Tây), but before I reached it, I spent most of the afternoon in the Vietnam Military History Museum, which was on the way. I’ve already posted a few photos from the museum here. The second was to a smaller lake, Hoàn Kiếm, home to a Confucian temple and surrounded by many restaurants, hotels and shops. The day I visited West Lake was rather dreary, and I have few attractive photos of the area. In fact, having spent most of the afternoon at the museum, I really only got as far as Trúc Bạch Lake, ...

Some street scenes of Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Some street scenes of Hanoi's Old Quarter
Most of my photos of Hanoi were taken while I was walking from my Airbnb to get lunch or go shopping, because I really only visited two tourist sites while I was there. I hope you can get a feel for the Old Quarter of Hanoi from these shots. All photos (with one exception noted above) taken with a Nikon D3300 with Nikkor 18-55 mm kit lens. For this trip, I traveled light, and only brought one additional lens, a manual 50 mm prime, which I did not use for any of these shots.

Reflections at a Hanoi café

Reflections at a Hanoi café
HANOI, VIETNAM — While I was sitting in this little Old Quarter café, hunched over my Windows tablet working on my editing task, familiar music started playing on the stereo — The Beatles, The Doors, The Kinks, The Mamas and the Papas, The Searchers, Little Peggy March — all music that Americans would have listened to back in the 1960s and ’70s. Music that Americans serving in the Vietnam War might have listened to, when they weren’t being shot at or trying to shoot soldiers on the other side. I could have been one of those guys — maybe not in a combat position, given my poor eyesight — but during the early 1970s, as the War seemed never to end, and as my 18th birthday approached, there was a possibility that my number would come up and I’d be sent to Vietnam to serve in the war. Yet, here I was, 44 years later, sitting in a quiet café in the NORTH of Vietnam (formerly enemy territory in wartime), the only foreigner in the building and easily the oldest, listening to American and British music of that era. It was at once poignant and surreal. I wondered if any ...

On the first part of the journey …

On the first part of the journey ...
CHANGSHA, HUNAN — There was football. More about that later, though. I left Zhengzhou on Jan. 25 as a heavy snowstorm was just picking up steam. The snow was so bad that even the high speed CRH trains, which run on schedule 99% of the time, had to slow down or even stop, because of poor visibility and slick trackage. My train to Futian station in Shenzhen would normally have taken seven hours. We arrived four hours later. Second-class ticket: 735.50 yuan ($116). My plan was to stay overnight in Shenzhen anyway, and my flight to Hanoi was in two days, so no big deal. There are many bargain flights out of Hong Kong, and I love Hong Kong, so I spent the second night there. My Jetstar ticket was $180 round trip, including an extra checked baggage fee. I stayed in a guest house near Causeway Bay for $65. My Shenzhen hotel near Futian train station was $60. [I’ve blogged about visiting Hong Kong before, but briefly, you can walk from Shenzhen’s Futian checkpoint to the Lok Ma Chau checkpoint in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, passing through two immigration and customs control points. That takes about an ...
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