Ten days filled with sightseeing, shopping, cooking school and adventure, yet I would call our trip to Vietnam the most peaceful one I have ever taken. Perhaps our nighttime arrival which allowed us to go directly to the Hanoi Sofitel to recuperate from the nearly 30 hour flight contributed to the peace. Although certainly our energizing morning massage and delicious breakfast buffet at the hotel coupled with the extreme professionalism of the V-xplore staff and our guide, Alex, added serenity to the entire tour.
Although far from peaceful, one of the most important lessons we learned was the proper way to cross the motor bike filled streets in Hanoi. The streets are a sea of motor bikers and pedestrians do not have the right of way; however, as long as you commit to crossing once you find that little break in the traffic, the motor bikes will swerve around you and you will be safely across the street. Do not stop or hesitate or the motor bike drivers get confused as to what we will do next. They are use to weaving in and out of people and do a great job of avoiding you.
We visited Ho Chi Minh mausoleum complex which includes the Presidential Palace, the One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature. We also took in the unique Water Puppet Show and took advantage of as many rickshaw rides as possible-much fun.
The meals at the Sofitel were mostly buffet and spectacular! I loved the coffee--very strong and tasty with cream.
From Hanoi we were driven to Halong Bay (one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam). We were transferred to a Luxury Indochina Sails Junk. The beautiful wood junk had large windows allowing us to continually view the thousands of enormous limestone peaks. It is truly one of the natural wonders of Vietnam and well worth the trip. We visited fishing villages where families live on house boats and sell fish and also sell pearls to the visitors. The serenity of the area is unmatched.
Next on our journey was Hoi An. We flew from Hanoi to Danang and then took a short bus trip to Hoi An--a shopper's paradise! We were away from the extreme hustle bustle of Hanoi and surrounded by Shops!!! Look for a tailor and enjoy the reasonable prices and one day service for making clothes. We also squeezed in a cooking class at the Red River Cooking School. It gave us a chance to see where the locals shop.(Take note that there are no flies in the market and see how fresh the fish and meat are.) The cooking school was down river, allowing us to see different cultures in every city. The school was fun and we made very tasty food. I highly recommend it. We stayed at Hoian Riverside Resort , a charming Asian style bungalow where we could view hundreds of ducks being issued back to their home from the river after they had spent time eating the fallen rice from the rice fields. Once again the breakfast and rooms were the very best.
Then off to Hue which is a lovely, progressive city. We took a boat ride on the Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda. Lunch was at one of the vegetarian restaurants and offered a unique experience for me. The food was so tasty that meat and fish were not missed. We stayed at Imperial Hue--another fine hotel. Be sure to go to the roof top for a drink and take in the wonderful view of the city.
Our final stop was Ho Chi Minh City. This city is much more Americanized and reminds me of New York City. We saw the beautiful French architecture as we roamed thru the city and took a full day trip to the Cai Be floating market. We sailed among the local boats full of fruits and vegetables. Our first stop was at an ancient Mandarin house from the 19th century where we watched locals pop rice and make rice paper. A delicious lunch was served at Le Longanier, a superb Indochina Villa located in a lush tropical plantation by the river. It is my understanding that you can only dine here if you take the cruise. It was well worth the trip and the opportunity to once again see how the people live on the river. Our hotel was Caravelle which was among the top hotels in Ho Chi Minh. Service and meals once again superb.
The highlight of the trip was the people. They were so gracious, serene and appreciative, which makes this trip so memorable. I hope I can keep a bit of the calm as I move ahead. I must say that Alex and V-Explore made our trip go smoothly and effortlessly. Alex handled every detail (including reversing the itinerary on a rainy day). He never let us know the trouble it was to change hotels, restaurants and sightseeing on a moment's notice. I certainly recommend the tour rather than trying to do it on your own. You have a hassle free trip and you are free to concentrate on the beauty of the country and the people.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Pan Pacific Hanoi offers 273 elegantly furnished rooms and suites, which boast breathtaking views of West Lake, Truc Bach Lake and the Red River. The hotel also has an impressive collection of 56 fully equipped serviced suites catering to the needs of extended-stay travellers. Savour a diverse range of international dishes from the all-day-dining restaurant or indulge in exquisite cuisine at our Chinese restaurant. Our lobby bar provides a relaxing ambience for guests to unwind after a long day. With 12 versatile meeting spaces, including a pillarless ballroom that can host up to 450 guests, the hotel provides the ideal venue for corporate meetings and grand banquets. Complete with an indoor pool with natural skylight, well-equipped fitness centre and rejuvenating spa, Pan Pacific Hanoi offers a refreshing new experience in the capital of Vietnam. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sofitel Plaza Hanoi Hotel Hanoi
- Accor Plaza Hanoi
- Sofitel Hanoi
- Hanoi Sofitel