It's Christmas morning and I've come out to my office to write this inaugural Virtual Vacation blog post for my trip to Vietnam. Tonight, after Christmas dinner at my son and daughter-in-law's house, I'm being picked up at 8 PM, by my friend Joanie, to head to the San Francisco airport for our 1 AM flight to Hanoi. Joanie and I are heading out three days before my partner Karyn (our yoga teacher), our two youngest kids (Yeah! They wanted to come!), our tour partners Judy and Surya, and the folks who signed up for this trip from Australia, Mexico, Canada and all over the US. I wanted a chance to de-jetlag and get oriented in Hanoi before welcoming them all. And tonight is the night we depart. Right now, I'm sitting in front of a glowing space heater in my unheated, uninsulated office, ... [Continue Reading]
Wouldn't you know it? My first blog post practically wrote itself before we even checked into our Eva Air flight to Taipei. Joanie and I chatted our way through the check-in line and as we approached the front, we reached into our respective purses for our tickets and passports. I grabbed mine and when I looked up, Joanie was holding her ticket and rooting around in her purse with a very concerned look on her face. I recognized that look and knew it could only mean one thing: her passport wasn't where it was supposed to be. I found a still place inside me because panic never helps at moments like these. I dragged my duffle bag out of the pathway, motioned for people to pass us in line, and waited. Joanie searched through her purse a second time. Then she opened her suitcase and ... [Continue Reading]
We made it....14 hours in the air and now we're in Tapiei and the airport is full of some of tackiest art ever. Lots of fake scenes of nature. And...we arrived at the airport on the 25th and it's now the 27th. Whaaa? We are definitely not in the US anymore. With my propensity to seek out the unusual and quirky, this room for nursing mothers definitely caught my attention. There were no mother-infant pairs inside, so I opened the door.... Hello Kitty EVERYWHERE! See what I mean? I wish I had a baby just to change it here. And this sign for a "Muslim Friendly Meal." Halal food, I guess! ... [Continue Reading]
This morning, our first in Hanoi, Joanie and I woke up from our respective twin beds (with very nice down comforters, I might add), remarked on how well we'd slept, and starting kicking around what wanted to do with our wide open day. I got on Trip Advisor and read about Women's Museum, a likely choice because it was one of the only Hanoi museums open on Mondays. One of the reviews said, "Absolutely amazing and it made it very clear which gender runs Vietnam." That description sold us for sure. The Women's Museum was going to be destination #1. The other thing we both wanted after our 24 hours of travel was to get a massage. I'd written to Judy, our tour leader, to see if she had a favorite massage place in Hanoi. She told us about a great foot massage salon, but there wasn't enough ... [Continue Reading]
When we left the Vietnam Women's Museum, we mapped our way to the foot massage parlor, about a mile or so away. After half an hour of swimming through streets filled with traffic and honking, we found our second destination of the day: Dai Cat foot massage. No one at the counter spoke any English and we didn't speak any Vietnamese, but it didn't seem to matter.
The first thing we noticed while we were eating breakfast on the 11th floor of our hotel this morning was that the tiny people down below on the street were all wearing ponchos or holding umbrellas. It was raining. We dressed for the weather, grabbed umbrellas and headed out on foot. The second thing we noticed the moment we hit the street was how clean and refreshing the air felt; the rain had washed all that grime and diesel right out of the air. I felt like I could take a full breath of air without risking my health for the first time since I got to Hanoi. The atmosphere felt...actually refreshing. The moment we reached the sidewalk, we were in a sea of ponchos. They were everywhere. The preferred rain gear for the Vietnamese, in order of priority seemed to be: 1) very thin, brightly ... [Continue Reading]
Before our group arrived, Joanie and I decided to check out one of Judy's tips to us, sent in an email before we left the U.S. "One of my favorite streets in Hanoi is Au Trieu street. Go there. You'll see why." So the same rainy day we toured the Hanoi Hilton, we headed in that direction. The neighborhood Judy recommended was very westernized, full of tourists: bakeries with lattes and earl grey tea, stores full of beautiful clothing and silks, storefronts advertising clothes sewn to order, tour company after tour company offering adventures to nearby natural wonders; wifi cafes serving western food and looking very much like home, lots of restaurants, an Apple store, and one particular restaurant that totally intrigued us. It was packed with young very well-dressed Vietnamese sitting ... [Continue Reading]
Judy Slattum, tour leader, Danu Tours.
Surya Made, Danu Tours, Judy's husband and partner in their great boutique tour company.Yesterday we picked up our travelers from all over the world: Australia, Mexico, Canada, California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Judy and Surya went to meet the first batch and our Vietnamese guide, Quynh, picked me up to so we could go together to meet the second wave. When we walked out of our hotel, he ushered me into an amazing bus. This was going to be a lot different than hoofing it on the streets of Hanoi on foot! After the typical travelers' delays, we rounded everyone up and got them back to our hotel. Then our job was to keep them awake for the next 7 or 8 hours until it was time for a proper Hanoi ... [Continue Reading]
Yesterday, we had our inaugural writing workshop of this trip. We gathered on the 11th floor of the hotel in a meeting room with a panoramic view of Hanoi on all sides. We could still hear hear constant honking from the streets and workers turning the restaurant over from lunch to dinner on the other side of the door, but pretty soon all of that fell away as we brought our hearts and attention to words. Finally, it was time to write. Writing group is a grounding place on these trips where so much attention goes outward, so the first thing we did was sit in meditation together, stilling to the sound of my gong. We got quiet, finally stopping the momentum of travel, arrival, and jetlag; the excitement of exploring a new country, the rush of getting to know each other, to settle in and ... [Continue Reading]