|Joan Baez Was here too|
|Bouquet of Roses for Wellness|
Frankly, I slept, of sort, sitting up, pillows on the window, and only had two urgent requests the whole route. When we arrived in the city of Hanoi - via the airport route - and yes, there is traffic but if you haven’t been to China, you don’t know jamming, and suddenly we entered tree line streets and thousands of people on motorcycles, mopeds and anything they could rig up to carry 2 dozen cages of chickens or even a small buffalo or stacks of metal pots. Fascinating Hanoi. When we pulled up to the classic Metropole Hotel, stopping point for celebrities as Noel Coward, Charlie Chaplin, Andre Ducamp to Joan Baez, millionaires and gold diggers, they had been warned of my condition. As I stepped out of the car, I was surrounded by Vietnamese young men in black uniforms and caps, one handing me a huge bouquet of red roses, beautiful Asian girls in long slim silk dresses with flowers in their hair, and managers and super managers all were there to get me to the number one room in the hotel (others were booked), the Somerset Maugham Suite where he spent lots of time writing his novels. I felt like Beyonce. As if I had an appetite, there was champagne, teas, French macaroons, chocolates, every kind of luxury, even a first floor patio - if anyone could take the heat: note, Vietnam is HOT period.
Trying to be polite and thankful, which I was, I went into the bedroom part of the suite where there was an enormous pillowy bed and a TV with plenty of English channels, and flopped on the bed in a curled up position still in my clothes and fell asleep. What more could one ask for? This happened at the insistence of my travel agent A&K.
Since all I had eaten in 36 hours was a Snickers, Jim made me go to High tea and high it was plus a long walk to the newer side of this legendary hotel passed a row of temptatious boutique Hermes, Cartier, Virtu, etc, But I had to get something in the ole tummy. Luckily they had things like tiny ham and cheese, tuna, and egg salad sandwiches which i was able to get down. Sweets and fruits just seem abnoxious and I just wanted to get back to that amazing bed. Done. It was 3 p.m. Next time I saw day light was the next morning at 7 a.m. Jim said there was a flurry of concern and people checked on me now and then and the manager even left me a monogramed silk robe as a gift. Now this is a hotel.
I arose a bit better and was able to get down to breakfast (what an extraordinary selection of food buffet style) because I was meeting an old friend Susanne, an American in Hanoi since the 1990s when Americans were still not everyone’s cup of tea much less a lone woman. She carved out her niche by giving contemporary artist a chance to show their work at first in her home and now in her new art gallery.
|Boarding the seaplane|
Then leaving big bags in hotel storage, we took a three nights worth of clothes in small bags and headed to the airport (I’m beginning to dread airports ) but this domestic one was short and to the point and we were ushered through check in and security to the gate at the end where we were driven to a distance corner of the runway to board a seaplane. Wow. This was a first. The pilot was from Canada and the seaplane would take us to Halong Bay for a overnight boat safari through the amazing limestone pillars that are like Guilien’s wonderful geographical creatures on steroids and in 1500 square miles of water. These 1969 “islands” would make a great hide and seek area in war time, and during the Vietnam War, Americans snuck into Halong Bay in kayaks to leave mines in the harbor, but they were not successful in wining anything. Vietnam’s naval fleet were here but most of the fighting was on the Red river. Hai Phong Harbor was supposedly recieving aid from Russia and China - particularly air missals to shoot at B-52s which could fly up to 50,000 feet why the SAM (Surface to Air Missals supplied by Russia) could only fly up to 40,000 feet. Although they shot down 25 B-52s, the war moved from here and there was no bombing in this area, mostly it was in Hanoi and southward. (Remember this used to be Northern Vietnam.)
I’m all for seaplanes. What a super flight from Hanoi, the pilot gave us a tour of the limestone landscape from above, and then we landed in the water, swoosh, without a bump, and floated along aways around many sea going vessels and river-style boats, until we came to a special exit that looked like a wide place where you would bring up a rowboat. Well, without a murmur, the seaplane went from floating to wheels and we stopped on a designated concrete “runway?” which was at Tuan Chau Marina. We disembarked into the heat and were led to a small ‘holding area” where drinks were served to us on low benches cum couches. New passengers (4) boarded the plane for the ride back to Hanoi and we boarded our private cruiser the Bhaya Legend. It is a two story boat with 3 bedrooms for passengers, each with a tiny deck but it’s so hot in the middle of the
|Onto the Bhaya Legend|
|At Last a cool moment|
|Sunset over the Pinnacles|