Tag Archives: hanoi

Part # 17: Panorama Vietnam

Vietnam #1: It’s a Long Ass Flight to Vietnam
Vietnam #2: The Best Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam #3: A Lesson in History and Propaganda
Vietnam #4: The Streets of HCMC
Vietnam #5: Is the Mekong Delta Worth It?
Vietnam #6: My First Overseas Doctor Visit
Vietnam #7: Welcome to Central Vietnam
Vietnam #8: Two-Wheeling in Vietnam
Vietnam #9: Don’t Skip Hoi An
Vietnam #10: A Hot Day in Hue
Vietnam #11: Exploring Hanoi
Vietnam #12: Hanoi Hilton
Vietnam #13: The Best View in Hanoi
Vietnam #14: Sheraton Hanoi Hotel
Vietnam #15: Need a Reason to Go to Vietnam: Here it Is.
Vietnam #16: How to Pick a Ha Long Bay Cruise

While I love taking and posting my own pictures, I don’t have a panorama option on my DSLR. Thankfully, Lisa’s camera does, and she loves taking panoramic shots. She does a great job, and it’s a neat way to get a feel for this fascinating country.

Thanks Lisa!

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A row of motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City

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A row of shops in central Ho Chi Minh City

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The beach at our Hyatt hotel in Danang

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Fishing boats in the Hoi An countryside

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Lang Co Bay en route to Hue

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A street corner in Hanoi

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Sitting on a tree in Hanoi overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake

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The stunning and incomparable Ha Long Bay





 

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Vietnam #14: Sheraton Hanoi Hotel

Vietnam #1: It’s a Long Ass Flight to Vietnam
Vietnam #2: The Best Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam #3: A Lesson in History and Propaganda
Vietnam #4: The Streets of HCMC
Vietnam #5: Is the Mekong Delta Worth It?
Vietnam #6: My First Overseas Doctor Visit
Vietnam #7: Welcome to Central Vietnam
Vietnam #8: Two-Wheeling in Vietnam
Vietnam #9: Don’t Skip Hoi An
Vietnam #10: A Hot Day in Hue
Vietnam #11: Exploring Hanoi
Vietnam #12: Hanoi Hilton
Vietnam #13: The Best View in Hanoi

We opted to stay at the Sheraton Hanoi Hotel, located on the edge of West Lake, Hanoi’s largest lake. The Sheraton cost a mere 3,000 – 3,500 points a night. The northern location is a 45 minute walk or 15 minute drive from the Old Quarter, but the Sheraton offers a complimentary shuttle into town (but not back to the hotel), and taxis are so cheap that it wasn’t an issue.

Sheraton Hanoi map

The decor in rather dated, and I was surprised to find out the hotel was only 10 years old.

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The best part of the hotel though is the Sheraton club room. Although I have no SPG status, the SPG business credit card gives me access to all Sheraton club rooms. It may seem like a silly thing to get excited about, but after nearly two weeks of traveling, it was a pleasure to have constant access to water, diet coke, and fresh fruit, not to mention other snacks. Of course, the views didn’t hurt either.

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Vietnam #13: The Best View in Hanoi

Vietnam #1: It’s a Long Ass Flight to Vietnam
Vietnam #2: The Best Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam #3: A Lesson in History and Propaganda
Vietnam #4: The Streets of HCMC
Vietnam #5: Is the Mekong Delta Worth It?
Vietnam #6: My First Overseas Doctor Visit
Vietnam #7: Welcome to Central Vietnam
Vietnam #8: Two-Wheeling in Vietnam
Vietnam #9: Don’t Skip Hoi An
Vietnam #10: A Hot Day in Hue
Vietnam #11: Exploring Hanoi
Vietnam #12: Hanoi Hilton

Top of Hanoi is a rooftop bar on the 65th floor of the Lotte Center in Hanoi. The rooftop is hip and modern and provides heaters and blankets to counter the nighttime chill. Entrance is free, but the menu prices are almost as high as the view.

But totally worth it.

Walking out of the elevator, you walk down a long, dark corridor, designed to give you the impression of entering another time and place.

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The north side offers views of West Lake.

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The south side offers views of central Hanoi.

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Vietnam #12: The Hanoi Hilton

Vietnam #1: It’s a Long Ass Flight to Vietnam
Vietnam #2: The Best Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam #3: A Lesson in History and Propaganda
Vietnam #4: The Streets of HCMC
Vietnam #5: Is the Mekong Delta Worth It?
Vietnam #6: My First Overseas Doctor Visit
Vietnam #7: Welcome to Central Vietnam
Vietnam #8: Two-Wheeling in Vietnam
Vietnam #9: Don’t Skip Hoi An
Vietnam #10: A Hot Day in Hue
Vietnam #11: Exploring Hanoi

There was one thing I really wanted to see in Hanoi: The Hanoi Hilton. No, I’m not talking about a hotel. The Hanoi Hilton was the name given to Hoa Lo Prison, the prison used by the French colonialists against the Vietnamese, and later, by the North Vietnam to imprison American POWs during the Vietnam War. As an avid politico, I had read all about the Hanoi Hilton. I was desperate to see it in person.

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Hoa Lo means literally “fiery furnace,” derived from the prison’s location among a concentration of stores selling stoves. It is also an apt name given the prison’s horrific conditions.

The museum is small with exhibits occupying its modest two floors, all of which emphasize a central message: The French colonialists cruelly massacred the Vietnamese prisoners while the Vietnamese treated American POWs with kindness and generosity. I am not being facetious. Like most of the museums we saw in the south, Hoa Lo Prison is an exercise in Vietnamese propaganda at its best.

We entered Cell D first, “the largest cells of Hoa Lo Prison where the French colony kept male prisoners…It was this same cell that the French used to detain many revolutionary Vietnam soldiers. These soldiers subsequently became senior executives of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Government of Vietnam…”

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Cachot is a tiny prison room at the far end of the first floor. Acording to the sign, Cachot was “used to confine prisoners who broke the regulations of the prison. Cachot in Hoa Lo was ‘hell of the hell,’ dungeon was dark and narrow. Prisoners were kept seperatelly, put in stocks, and to eat and relieve themselves on the spot. All the prisoners confined here were puffed with oedema, their eyes were clouded over and their bodies were covered with scabies caused by the lack of light and air.” [Spelling is not my own.]

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Some exhibits demonstrate the lengths the Vietnamese went to escape.

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Outside, a memorial honors the “struggle against enemy’s terrorism” and efforts to turn “the prison into a school to propagate the revolutionary argument.”

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*2015-12-03 10.09.57We then moved on to the Vietnam War era. A sign offers context: “The United States government carried out sabotage warfare by using their air and naval forces against the North Vietnamese from 05 August 1964 to 15 January 1973… Some of pictures and objects in these two exhibition halls show details of US pilots’ lifes when they were temporary imprisoned at Hoa Lo prison.” [Spelling is not my own.]

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These were the beds used by American POWs.

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Here I am sitting in a prison cell. It’s not particularly comfortable.

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Hoa Lo’s most famous POW was Senator John McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona and the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. He was captured in 1967 when his plane was shot down over North Vietnam. Contrary to the propaganda in the museum, McCain was put in solitary confinement and severely tortured. Today, he can’t lift either of his arms above his shoulders. He can’t comb his own hair. Here is a photo of his capture.

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U.S. POWs, including John McCain, pictured at their release in 1973.

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The museum paints a very rosy picture – almost hysterically so – of the conditions in Hoa Lo during the Vietnam War.

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Christmas meal for the American pilots in prison

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The American pilots held a Christmas ceremony in the prison

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Army doctors treated a wound for John McCain an American pilot arrested at Truc Bach Lake – Hanoi on 26 October 1967.

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American pilots play billiards

While I obviously didn’t buy into the propaganda machine, it is fascinating to see the historical pictures and the tale that is still being woven today by the Vietnamese government, more than 40 years after the war ended.

 

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Vietnam #11: Exploring Hanoi

Vietnam #1: It’s a Long Ass Flight to Vietnam
Vietnam #2: The Best Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam #3: A Lesson in History and Propaganda
Vietnam #4: The Streets of HCMC
Vietnam #5: Is the Mekong Delta Worth It?
Vietnam #6: My First Overseas Doctor Visit
Vietnam #7: Welcome to Central Vietnam
Vietnam #8: Two-Wheeling in Vietnam
Vietnam #9: Don’t Skip Hoi An
Vietnam #10: A Hot Day in Hue

Hanoi is not what I’d call a pretty city. It has its elegant moments, but for the most part, it is gritty, noisy, intense, and overwhelming. Especially the Old Quarter.

We didn’t have a particular destination in mind. We simply wandered through the Old Quarter’s byzantine streets, turning randomly as we desperately avoided oncoming traffic. Literally. See the evidence below.

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I already warned you about the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. If it’s possible, the traffic is even worse in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. This is one of my favorite pictures. I can’t even begin to imagine riding a motorbike with two people and a stack of steel beams!

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The Old Quarter is made up of overcrowded streets, tiny shops and homes that look like they’ve seen better days, overhanging electrical wires, crazy trees, and piles of cheap crap for sale.

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This seems like a great way to save money on rent.

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You can buy a Vietnamese hat for any sized head. Seriously, any size.

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Or a banana – ripe or unripe.

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Or any color zipper you’d like.

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Or a painting.

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In fact, Lisa did!

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After the Old Quarter we headed south to Hoan Kiem Lake, a picturesque reprieve in busy Hanoi.

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12 Nights of Vietnam Hotels for $92.50

I hope you’re not tired of listening to me gush about the  power of miles and points. WARNING: There is more gushing to come. We leave for Vietnam in one week (!!!!!), and we’ve been busy planning.

The short story is we booked 12 nights at pretty nice hotels for $92.50 a person. Here’s the breakdown:

Ho Chi Minh City: Five nights at Intercontinental Asiana Residences for 95,000 IHG points, one free night, and $40.

Da Nang: Three nights at the Hyatt Regency for 18,000 Hyatt points, one free night, and $75.

Hue: One night at the Eldora Hotel for $70.

Hanoi: Three nights at the Sheraton Hanoi for 10,000 SPG points.

The long story is, well, much longer.

As soon as Lisa and I booked our flights to Vietnam, I made a map and chart of all the possible hotel options. I did an audit of my hotel points and asked Lisa to do the same. I had spent many of my points in Scotland, so I need to figure out which points I needed to restock.

We started with Lisa. I had convinced her to get the IHG credit card for a bonus of 70,000 points. A couple of months later, Lisa was sitting on 75,000 IHG points. That was enough for three nights at the Intercontinental Asiana Saigon Residences in Ho Chi Minh City at 25,000 points a night. Ho Chi Minh has a number of nice hotels – from Hyatt, to SPG, to IHG, to Marriott – but the Asiana Residences offered apartment sized rooms with an actual living room and kitchen. That was a no-brainer. I just had to cobble together points for two additional nights. Luckily, the anniversary on my own IHG credit card reset on October 1, granting me another free annual night. Four nights down, one to go. Thanks to IHG’s 10 percent rebate on redemptions and my Chase points, I managed to accrue 20,000 points. That plus $40 gave us our fifth night.

Next up is the coastal city of Da Nang. This was a simple process of elimination. Da Nang has two points hotels: The swanky Intercontinental and the Hyatt Regency. We were fresh out of IHG points so I needed to cobble together three nights’ worth of Hyatt points. My Hyatt credit card give me a free annual night at a category 1 – 4 hotel. That’s one night. I transferred 12,000 Chase ultimate reward points and booked our second night. For our third night, I used 6,000 Hyatt points and $75. Three nights – done.

Our next stay is in the ancient city of Hue. There are no points hotels, but plenty of great, affordable options. You can book a motel for as low as $15, but we splurged on the four-star Eldora Hotel for $70.

Our last hotel stay is in Hanoi. We decided to stay in the ultra-bargain Sheraton (where my SPG credit card will get us access to the lounge!) for 3,000 – 3,500 points a night.

And that’s how we booked 12 nights of hotels for $185. Split between two people, that’s only $92.50 a person!

 

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