A Travellerspoint blog

Good Bye Hong Kong....Hello Hanoi

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After we said our good-bye's to Hong Kong, Annie and I set out to our new destination.... Vietnam. The city of Hanoi to be exact. It is only a 2 hr flight from HK to Hanoi. Annie and I were excited to continue our trip as soon as we landed in Hanoi. When we landed, Annie and I were a little confused and worried on how we would get to our hotel from the Airport. We had read that it can be a bit of a challenge figuring out a safe and economical way to get from the airport to our hotel in the city of Hanoi. We found out that there was a Vietnam Airlines mini-bus that could take us to their offices in Hanoi from the airport. Little did we know that all of the mini-bus drivers that we encountered outside of the airport all claimed that they were from Vietnam Airlines and they could take us to our hotel. After some hassle with travel price we went with a mini-bus that we thought was from the airlines, but we later found out that it was not. Oh well, we figured that this driver will get us to our hotel. When we got to the mini-bus there were other people already inside which made us a little bit more at ease that we were not the only ones in the bus with a strange driver. The bus could hold about 6 people with baggage. When we finally departed our mini-bus was packed in with 11 people and baggage. We were packed in like clowns in a clown car. It's about a 45 min drive from the airport to Hanoi, our journey took about 2hrs. The long ride was mostly due to traffic, but the dropping off all of passengers that were inside the mini-bus added to the travel time. The traffic in Hanoi is horrible. Annie and I could not believe how many mopeds were running through the streets. It looked like we were in a motorcycle convention. Driving in Hanoi takes some skills as no one here follows any sense of proper driving safety and caution...of course that is from our point of view. Everyone drives whenever and wherever they want. A one way street becomes a two way street in seconds. You can imagine how stressful it can be trying to cross the street on foot.

Last night we caught a water puppet show, a unique art form to Vietnam, and the most famous one resides in Hanoi. The show was very different. The puppeters are actually in waist high water, operating the puppets. We called it a night when we couldn't find anything to eat but a travellers pub. We cop-ed out and had a hamburger and grilled cheese for dinner.

Today we regrouped and set out to really explore the city and learn how to confidently cross the streets during the daylight. First stop was to a travel agent to book a cruise to Halong bay...then lunch. Andy finally had some pho...i had a pork chop...still sort of cop-ping out. Afterwards we headed out to the Lake in Hanoi. The lake is centered around a legend of a king and a giant tortoise. These giant tortises live in the lake and they managed to petrify one in the 60's. We made a visit out to Ho Chi Minh's masoleum, but it was closed. We settled for his private house and car collection...not exactly something i've seen on Cribs, but very impressive for the time.

Overall, Hanoi is not exactly what we expected. The city is very hustle and bustle and the city is trying to work on recycling and cleaner practices. It was a little disappointing to see that some of the major historical sites were not cared for well and may not be around for many generations. I did suffer from a little bit of shell shock but after settling down with a big pate bagette and fresh guava juice, me nerves were calmed and I'm ready to set sail on our cruise.

Posted by Garcia2008 05:44 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Blogging from the TOP

The Peak....Victoria Peak that is.

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Today we are leaving Hong Kong for Vietnam. Hong Kong is a great city. We went to LanTau yesterday to see the biggest outdoor buddha, fully constructed of bronze. We feasted on vegetarian dim sum and noodles provided by the Po Lin monastary. Afterwards we wandered more markets, the bird market, the flower market, and the goldfish market. All very interesting. I'm not sure how the business owners can be competitive if all the vendors on the street are selling the same thing. Our plan for the night was to change into warm clothes and head out to Victoria peak to see the night view and check out the happening night scene. Unfortunately,we passed out in bed and woke up to the sun beaming on our faces since we forgot to close the shutters.

We got up early this morning to try to catch the tram to the top of the Peak. We are currently having some english tea and enjoying the view from the top. We will try to catch some dim sum before catching a plane out.

All in all...Hong Kong is a great place to visit. The public transportation is very efficient and low cost. The seafood is excellent. One of the main delicacies I wanted to introduce Andy too was a bust, goose. With the avian flu hitting Asia, I am reluctant to eat any poultry. The gleaming windows of peking duck, salt chicken and roasted goose are calling my name, but the fear has the better of me. In the past week we have gone through immigration numerous times and each time they have some sort of temperature scanner beamed on the passengers entering to check for illness...it's a real threat and I'm not willing to take the chance.

Talk to you all later...in Vietnam. We will try to post some more pics as soon as we get to it. We had a video of the helicopter ride too but had technical difficulties.

Posted by Garcia2008 17:49 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Hong Kong-ese

Planes, trains, and automobiles...and helicopter???

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That's right, we went on a helicopter..that was my brother's gift to us, a trip from HK to Macau by helicopter and a suite at the MGM. The helicopter ride was awesome. Both of us had never been on one before...and it is definately the way to travel. After a quick flight across the ocean to Macau, we were jetted off to the MGM on the Macau Peninsula. We checked into our beautiful room and were off to see the sights. First off was the ruins of Sao Paulo and the steps in front leading to what used to be the church. The steps were reminiscent of the Spanish Steps in Rome. We wandered the cobble stone paths that lead to the Lago Senado ( Senate Square). I was in search of the pasteis nata...the famous warm egg-custard tartlet. It is very similar to the egg tarts at dim sum, but a lot better. It is flaky and slightly carmelized on the top to give it an overall delicious-ness that can only be found in Macau. For dinner we headed to La Rocha for some authentic Portuguese cuisine on the suggestion of the concierage. We had baked clams, pepper steak, caldo verde ( kale soup), chourico assado (grilled sausage) and pasteis de bacalhua ( dried cod cakes). All of it was amazing. Food in Macau is very interesting, it is a mix of Portuguese and Chinese, just like the people. Dinner was like dining on Chinese tapas in a spanish village. After dinner we took a crazy cab ride to the Venetian hotel for some gambling...there is a grand prix in macau...and all the cabbies drive like they are racing. Pretty much all the big hotels, Wynn, Venetian, MGM are eerily similar to their vegas counter-parts. As we walked around we would forget that we were in Asia....it felt exactly like vegas. In the morning we had to devour more egg tarts and say goodbye to the square. We bought some stamps as souvenirs from the Macau post office. Macau is known for their stamps and the post office carried a variety that were no longer in circulation. Overall, Andy and i agreed that Macau is worth the visit if you are going to be in HK. The mix of chinese and portuguese makes for an interesting atmosphere. I was surprised when I could read signs in all 3 languages..a little bit of chinese, a little bit of english, and a little bit of portuguese, which resembles spanish.

We left Macau by Turbojet, not as glamorous as helicopter, but we arrived safely in HK. We were thoroughly exhausted when we checked into the Hong Kong Conrad. The hotel is beautiful and set atop hills in the financial district. It feels like we are in a world of high rises from our room on the 40th floor. We can see into the Victoria Harbor and over to Kowloon. After a nap, we wandered the night markets in Kowloon. We dined on folding chairs in the middle of the street at a small seafood shack. All the seafood shacks around us were pushing the spicy crabs so we thought we would give them a try. I was surprised and happy to see my favorite HK seafood was on the menu, Squilla. Squilla look like 2 lobster tails stuck together with no head. My mom said it only lives in the harbor surrounding HK..not sure if that is true, but it is the only place I have ever seen them. We ordered spicy crabs, salt and pepper Squilla, and some fried noodles and dined al fresco..or on the street. I was really excited to see that Andy enjoyed the ugly crustaceans as much as i did. After dinner we raced over to the Avenue of the Stars on Kowloon to see the view of the HK skyline...a beautiful way to end my birth-day and entrance into my 30's...and yes, I did have noodles today to ensure a long life... i had them twice just in case.

Posted by Garcia2008 09:12 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Wedding Day Take 2.....

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Today we are currently at the airport in Taipei waiting for our flight to destination #2 Hong Kong. We are leaving Taipei for the time being and will return after our journey is complete. Yesterday, Annie and I attended our wedding reception lunch in the town of Hsin Chu. Annie's Ama (Grandmother) set-up the lunch reception at the Ambassador Hotel in Hsin Chu. When we arrived we were greeted with hugs and cheers!!! It was awesome to see some many new faces and to spend time with Annie's Ama. It has been sometime that I have not seen her. Present at the lunch reception were Annie's Dad's Brothers, Aunts and Cousin's. The lunch was fantastic, we had a 16 course lunch with all types of food (Chicken, Duck, Beef, Sea Food and Soup) Luckly for me I have eaten most of all the different types of food before so I was not to freaked out. Guests at the lunch were concerned at first and made sure that I was comfortable with the menu and the use of Chop Sticks. I made Annie proud and did not need a fork and was able to eat all of the food. After lunch we made our way to Ama's country side home which was not too far from the hotel. The house was very cool. It had lots of land that Ama uses to farm. It was awesome to see where Annie's Dad grew up and to see the countryside of Taiwan, Hsin Chu. It was very nostalgic for Annie and her brother Eddie to visit the house after so many years. It reminded them of when they were younger and how the years have gone by.

After we got back from Hsin Chu, Eddie and I took a journey to the wierd and crazy area's of Taipei. We made our way to Snake Alley, where we saw the gutting of a live snake. The snake was drained of its venom and other fluids, and for only 150NT you can take 3 shots ( blood, venom, and other fluids) to guarantee long life and stamina. Both Eddie and I were going to try it but the last shot was intimidating...maybe next time.

After Snake Allley, we asked a taxi to take us to a bar....they took us to the redlight district. We headed into a bar to watch the Laker game and have a beer....the bar ended up being a philipino gay bar. We watched our game and drank our beer until Love Shack came on...then we had to get out of there because we were not ready for the sing-a-long.

So far I have had a blast...my toes are a little in pain from the massage i had the other day, but i'll recover.

On to Macau....to celebrate annie's last day as a 20-something....and more about Eddie's awesome wedding gift.

As soon as we find a computer we can download we will upload some pics.

Thanks to everyone organizing a great reception for us...in a land so far from home.

-andy

Posted by Garcia2008 16:52 Archived in Taiwan Tagged food Comments (0)

Taipei 101 and intestine soup!

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We've arrived...after a 14.5 hour plane ride and a 16 hour time difference. Today we had 2 breakfasts because the first one didn't do us justice. Breakfast # 1- pork buns, egg pancakes, soybean milk, and sugar cane juice, Breakfast #2- intestine soup, octopus beak, and baked rice. This afternoon we visited Taipei 101 and went up to the 89th observatory floor. The view was pretty amazing, but the day was a little cloudy. We wandered around the mall for a little bit. Pretty much all the stores were the same....all my favorites, Hermes, Dior, Chanel...just like we were in Beverly Hills all over again. The mall was constructed like a mall out of Vegas...big and colorful. It was a little weird that all the employees were decked out in Santa hats and singing Christmas carols...pretty much all employees in Taiwan are wearing xmas hats and things right now.

Tonight we are going to have dinner with Annie's mom's side of the family and then it is off to the night markets.

Annie's brother, Eddie, got us the most amazing wedding gift...but we'll talk about that when the time comes.

Posted by Garcia2008 02:06 Archived in Taiwan Tagged food Comments (2)

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