Review: Boutique Hotel, Hanoi

This is a good one. I stayed here for two nights by myself and then once J-e came we stayed for a couple more nights. We had a room with no balcony, overlooking the back and that was $20 a night as a single, or $25 a night with two people. The room was of an okay size, had good air-conditioning and the water probably would’ve ran hot if I’d waited a bit longer. We were on the 5th floor so it may take a while to get up there, plus in August, there’s really no need for hot water.

There was a whopping huge flat screen tv in the room with cable channels. The breakfast included was kind of small but quite good. The room was cleaned well and it was surprisingly quiet. Hanoi’s a noisy city, what with all the beeping. There was wireless internet that worked pretty well most of the time. I had a little trouble with reception via the iPod on the 5th floor sometimes, but mostly okay. There’s a couple of PCs in the lobby available to use all the time.

The big thing about this hotel, and this really is a big thing, is that all the staff were friendly and honest. They helped us organize air tickets to Hoi an and a taxi to the airport. There were no hidden extras thrown onto the bill, in fact maybe because we stayed for 4 nights, but they didn’t charge for 3 or 4 drinks we got out of the fridge, and a bunch of calls I made to the g-f. I think I spoke to her on her mobile for an hour one night.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3864434305/” title=”IMG_4339 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2452/3864434305_ecae028b76.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”IMG_4339″ /></a>

*The Short:* Highly recommended!

Ps. Make sure you’re getting the right ‘Boutique Hotel’ because apparently a couple of others in the old quarter have painted the same phrase over their entrance. The real on is on Bat Su street.

Review: Greenfield Hotel, Hoi an

Here is another point that the wikitravel website let me down with. It said the Greenfield hotel was good but it’s not. Basically, it’s dilapidated and the staff tried to overcharge when we were checking out. Their website is highly ‘creative’ with they way they portray the hotel. The breakfast was abominable and I think one of the cleaners played with my iPod when I was out.

In their favour, they do seem to be trying to update the place, and the staff (well some of them) were a little bit friendly if you were friendly to them first. They kind of reminded me of maltreated children; their first reaction when they saw you coming was that you were going to yell at the complaining about something. I guess they get that a lot.

After I’d been there a couple of days I read <a href=”http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g298082-d1174603-Reviews-Green_Field_Hotel-Hoi_An.html”>this</a> and it’s about 90/10 bad reviews.

A couple of other things to mention are that there was no hot water and the tiles in the room we were in were loose so once water got under them, and you stood on them, like to go to the toilet for a pee, they’d make a squelching sound. I kind of dug it but I think, overwhelmingly, other people wouldn’t. The air-con (a must in August) was noisy and rather ineffective. Also my girlfriend almost drowned in the swimming pool but that’s mostly because she’s got a big head.

*The Short:* Avoid!  I heard good things about Nhi-Nhi hotel.

Air force museum, Hanoi

2nd part of holiday snaps. I took a taxi out to the air force museum that’s a fair way out of the center of the city. In a taxi it cost about 70thousand dongs. I was lucky to get an honest taxi. It was a really hot day. I got there around lunchtime: 11:30. There was no one at the gate selling tickets so I just wandered in and expected to pay later.

The highlight was this fucking huge helicopter, a Mi-6.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3864379459/” title=”IMG_4293 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2578/3864379459_fb7b99ac77.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”IMG_4293″ /></a>

Continue reading “Air force museum, Hanoi”

Vietnam holiday in fotos part 1

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3864340433/” title=”IMG_4266 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2582/3864340433_16ae9e1db1.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”IMG_4266″ /></a>

Uncle Ho says, “Reach out and touch someone”.

This could be long an painful like some relative’s slide show so I’ll spread it out over several days.

I was nastily surprised when the plane landed at Hong kong, since I thought it was going straight to bangkok and that I’d be transferring only once. I had to transfer twice for a flight that going direct only takes four hours. Thanks for letting me know, shoestring travel of Seoul, hongdae. Good job.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3865088778/” title=”IMG_4241 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2462/3865088778_a11f6847f2.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”IMG_4241″ /></a>

A lot of Korean girls got off for Honkers. A good shopping destination. I wouldn’t mind checking it out sometime.

Bangkok airport. Airports are big places that are sometimes busy but most of the time not.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3865092204/” title=”IMG_4244 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2557/3865092204_f70ed8f6e9.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”IMG_4244″ /></a>

*MILITARY HISTORY MUSEUM, HANOI*

This was the first time I travelled without taking a Lonely Planet book. I used the info from the <a href=”http://wikitravel.org/en/Main_Page”>wikitravel</a> website, which was occasionally useful but basically just as inaccurate as the perpetually out-of-date Lonely Planet books.

Wikitravel said it was 20thou dongs to go to the Mil.Hist museum, correct – but it costs another 20 if you want to use a camera, not 5 as they say.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3865102802/” title=”IMG_4251 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2478/3865102802_ec164b9356.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”IMG_4251″ /></a>

They made a monument out of shit they’d blown out of the sky. The photo used as the centrepiece seems to be an iconic favourite. It’s of a girl dragging a peice of US jet home along the beach.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3864326471/” title=”IMG_4255 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3426/3864326471_2dd9d4ee40.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”IMG_4255″ /></a>

The overt militarism would be out of place and easy to criticise in most other places but in Vietnam it’s just part of the scene. For some reason it reminded me of how its okay for black people to call eachother nigger, but not okay for anyone else to call them that.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3864329343/” title=”IMG_4257 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2546/3864329343_755365a233.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”IMG_4257″ /></a>

Lots of propaganda posters. I liked the colours in this one.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3865121906/” title=”IMG_4265 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2657/3865121906_509d684cc9.jpg” width=”375″ height=”500″ alt=”IMG_4265″ /></a>

Was it worth going to the the military history museum? Yeah. It was okay. As they say, the victors write the history and the message from the place is very much that the Vietnamese people have kicked out anyone who’s attempted to take over the joint.

*   *   *

The only American chain restaurant I saw in the whole of Hanoi was one low-profile looking KFC. Maybe this one got the nod because Col. Sanders bears something of a resemblance to Uncle Ho.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3865141554/” title=”IMG_4279 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2603/3865141554_21d375cc17.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”IMG_4279″ /></a>

*Also see <a href=”http://www.sunnybreaks.org/2009/09/06/vietnam-hol-fotos-pt2/”>Vietnam holiday fotos part 2</a>*.

Shunt

Wow. It took two transfers and all day just to get from incheon to Hanoi. I’m getting better at using the tiny keyboard on the iPod touchy. It’s been pretty neat –every airport I’ve been through (4 today) has had accessible wireless.

There was a bunch of Indians on the bonkers to Bangkok leg. My goodness! What a jollylot they were. It sounded like they had a comedian and an audience of about ten hearty laughers back there.

minor adventure

For quite a while I’d been wanting to get down to the south-western corner of this peninsula: Mokpo!

I guess that all that time it’d been in the back of my mind, expectations had been building, so when I got there the reality that is Mokpo did not live up. It’s four hours on the bus from Seoul.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/3252902978/” title=”DIRTY MOTEL WINDOW by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3031/3252902978_b4bcc90239.jpg” width=”375″ height=”500″ alt=”DIRTY MOTEL WINDOW” /></a>

Maybe it’s errornous of me to draw a conclusion after less than 24hrs in the place, during winter, but the town seems down. Down on its luck. Dependant on fishin’ and the fish aren’t selling like they used to. People were not especially pleasant–all the brashness of the big city but with only a pop. of 234000. Reminded me of Busan in that way, and a little of Yeosu. I’m fairly sure that people in Busan were rude because me as whitey looked like russian whitey. It may have been the same in Mokpo, but I didn’t see any Russians.

As was fitting, I luncheoned on the famous ‘Marine Products’. An hour or so later felt the urgent need to go to the toilet. I suspect it was the soup with muscles in it. There were some that were only a little open, so I jimmied them open with a spoon. That should be okay shouldn’t it? I mean – if they were bad eatin’ then they wouldn’t put them in my soup, right?

Once again, I felt let down by the information in the Lonely Planet guide. The directions from the express bus terminal to the downtown area were plain wrong, and the rates for motels were inaccurate– which is what happens when the book is two years past it’s printing date. But then, when the hell _isn’t_ it two years out of date? It always feels like it is. Printed-on-paper travel guides seem like an out of date concept.

I think there’s room for some kind of “facebook” like network for travel info. The key being that there’d have to be some sort of micro-payment system for popular/useful information submitted.

In any case, the ammended plan, should I ever head that way, would be get there a little earlier in the day, and keep rolling to one of the islands like jindo or whatever.

Holiday on Jang ja-do (장자도)

and Seon yu-do 선유도.
jangjado
The young lady and I had a chance to get away for a couple of days so headed for the west coast of the peninsula. Incheon was as far as I’d got to that side. From the US air-force base town of Gunsan, it was an hour and a half passenger-ferry ride to Jang ja.

It was sunny weather on the way there but a bit rocky on the boat. It seems the boat pilots in this country are of a similar ilk to the taxi (and little green bus) drivers, for there was quarter given. One young lad sicked up a bit, Je got dizzy and even I with my iron bowels felt a tad queasy.

Got there we did though, checked into the really nice little min bak  (cross between motel/cabin kind of thing) and then walked around a bit.

It’s really unscrewed up there – very little trash, trashyness, neon, cars or CLR!DE shops. In fact I would go so far as to say it was the nicest place I’ve been to in Korea. Bikes can be rented for 3000 won an hour. Some of the min baks have electric golf carts, and there are a few cars but not many. There’s not a lot to do there as far as organised activities go, but that’s fine by me. It’s probably this, along with the ferry ride that have kept the island from becoming trashed-out and overloaded with obnoxious Seoulites.

I guess it’s all pretty shallow there because there was a big difference between high and low tide. Low tide presented a lot of mud on the beaches. (But no Sneetches on those beaches.) The shallowness makes for relaxed swimming though, compared to the East sea, where it’s more like jumping straight into the Arctic ocean.

It’s a good idea to bring a whole load of food with you. Min baks have a small gas cooker and the place we stayed at had a communal BBQ thing outside aswell. Bring meat and whatever else. We didn’t bring much so ended up going to the restaurants there a fair bit. Some of them are quite nice, and you can get quite a bit of food for the money — but the prices are fairly expensive. After a couple of days you’re going to be craving something other than seafood.

The morning we left it was raining and the ocean was a bit choppy. When the boat pulled in and even the boarding was heiry I thought we’d be in fr a breakfast-refunding kind of jaunt but I guess they’d added water-ballast to the boat because it was smoother than the journey there.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/5454848541/” title=”jangja2 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5138/5454848541_7753377ae6.jpg” width=”500″ height=”211″ alt=”jangja2″ /></a>

return

I had an exam last Monday. I was over on the east coast for the last couple of days taking a much needed break from it all. I’d forgotten what unpolluted air tastes like. Sometimes my patience grows short with the people here and I got to think it was koreans – that was the problem, but I’m more inclined to think it’s actually cityfolk. Could be any huge city like this — people tend to be more in a hurry, more pushy and rambunctious, more likely to stick their nose in.

I was staying in a small seaside hamlet. See flickr for fotos. I walked past an unattended fish place, the kind that has tanks out the front with various live sea creatures stocked for eating. There was a fish flipping on the asphalt. It’d jumped out of its tank and was suffocating in the air. I walked around the place to see if one of the people was there to tell them that one of their fish had jumped out but there was nobody to be had.

I stood for a good minute or two debating what to do. Had the fish jumped out on purpose? Was it nobler to die on the tarmac than in a cooking pot, on the way to being eaten by someone? I got to wondering what Captian Picard would do eventhough I haven’t watched that show in <em>years</em>. In the end I decided it was better to do what I could to prolong the fish’s life now and if it ended up getting eaten later that day it was out of my hands. I put if back in the tank but maybe it was out too long because it was ‘swimming upside down’ as they say.

I’d forgotten how much people out there like telly. Everyone was watchin telly all the time. Dramas mostly, sometimes a little baseball, sometimes christian telly. It made me wonder what all the folks out there, out in the remote villages, the satellites, the two-bit one-horse towns — what do they think of yankee beef and the FTA? I don’t know, I couldn’t talk to them.

like tears in soup

all the memories of everything that I wanted to mention about the recent trip to Shanghai and surrounds is blending in to nothing, so I better try and write it now, with fotos.

First the food. I really like food from the different parts of China. I feel like I’m over Korean food. I guess it’s just a thing of mass. China is massive and made up of a bunch of different cultures that have their own food. Maybe it’s the result of being in Korea for some time now, but the Sichuan style of food, (spicy) is probably the kind I like best. <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/5454898431/” title=”drool by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5139/5454898431_0e2375a21f_o.jpg” width=”394″ height=”205″ alt=”drool” /></a>

In this particular night we went to the appropriately titled Sichuan Restaurant. On the right is a kind of fried potato dish, lending further weight to my theory that chips are universal and that you could go to Mars and they would be eating chips there too. On the left, according to girlfriend with e-dictionary in hand, is a dish entitled, ‘an excess of saliva’, which we’ll shorten to ‘drool’ for the purposes of this blogpost. It was chicken in a spicy -hot oil. It really did make you drool! Very tasty once you get over the not-so-western style of chopping–they cut straight through the bone rather than filleting or sectioning the way folks like me are used to.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/5455509596/” title=”journeytothecenteroftheearth by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5219/5455509596_07332ca023_o.jpg” width=”396″ height=”574″ alt=”journeytothecenteroftheearth” /></a>

I did several of the touristy things the first time around when I was there in late Feb but there was one that had eluded the tackyness-magnet. There’s an underground train that runs under the river which was like _Journey to the Centre of the Earth_ meets Star Trek: The motion picture meets Boards of Canada’s album, Geogaddi.

I think it’s worth noting down that weather-wise, late April was a perfect time to be in Shangers. It was warm but not humid and the nights were just nice.

For a day or two we got out of the central city to a place an hour na a half away on the bus, Xitang. It’s a small place and not as on the map as Hangzhou or Suzhou. Xitang’s claim to fame is that a few scenes from Mission Impossible 3 were shot there. In several of the restaurants and shops you can see fotos of Tom Cruise and cast standing around.

Personally I found it interesting to see how the place filled up with the new Chinese Upper-middle class on Saturday morning. there’s all these people with money in their pocket in china and now all they need is Disney Land.

In any case, Xitang was a nice little place and the canals didn’t smell.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/5455510426/” title=”xitang by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5140/5455510426_8cb1dc9771_o.jpg” width=”461″ height=”259″ alt=”xitang” /></a>