Coming down through the clouds over Hanoi, my impression was of lots of water - lakes, rivers, paddy fields.
The plane was only half full, and the airport was smaller and quieter than we expected. Only a handful of people stood around waiting for a 'visa on arrival' and the staff seemed vary laid back - everyone else on the plane was apparently local and vanished within minutes of landing.
We wandered out of the terminal, and found a young taxi driver willing to transport us to the Hanoi Club Hotel. He had apparently never heard of our hotel, had to ask around to find out where to go.
We drove for about half an hour - the landscape was smoggy and flat, and there were rivers, lakes and paddy fields (with little people wearing those traditional conical hats!) We got into some very narrow streets with tiny shops, no pavement, and throngs of motorbikes, and our driver told us we had arrived and seemed to want us to get out. We couldn't see anything that looked like a hotel - especially not the one where we thought we were going. We handed him a phone number and asked him to ring the hotel. So he drove on further, but we soon realised that we had gone in a complete circle and had returned to the same spot - but this time, at the spot where he had originally tried to drop us off, he turned down a steep, narrow street - and there was the hotel!
The tiny streets and houses at the front of the hotel.
The front of the Hanoi Club Hotel.
Sally also arrived safely at the hotel.
Our First Meal in Vietnam
It's no secret that I don't cope well with Malaysian food (allergic to chili, and don't eat rice). There had been no food since our 4am rising, so we were keen to try out the hotel restaurant.
Pumpkin soup with 'tossed' salmon ... yeah, that'll do.
Nice desserts too, at the right time.
Vietnamese style iced coffeeI've always been a fan of iced coffee, so when I saw this on the menu I had to try it.
Tours of HanoiThe next morning we were all three talking in our room when the hotel phone rang. I answered, and the lady at the front desk asked me if "Missarry" was there. I could not understand her, but no matter what I said, she just kept repeating it - very patiently - like a recording. After about 4 attempts I suddenly realised "Miss Sally"! We had booked a tour, and somehow they had got the idea that Sally was our group 'leader'.
So we went to the foyer to meet Mr Fou, our guide.
Ho Chi Minh's mausoleumThis is the first place you have to go, because this is Vietnam.
When we finally got to see the mummy - Ho Chin Minh himself in all his preserved plasticky-looking sleepiness - we were quickly marched past with serious-faced young soldiers daring us to smirk or giggle.
Ethnic museumWe really wanted to see a real village - we have lived in real villages in the past and wanted to see what one was like here.
Anyway, we went to the very interesting ethnic museum where there were examples of various buildings and artifacts.
This magnificent canoe had us visualising warring tribesmen.
Then there was the long house.
He explained that this was built in a matriarchal society, and as each daughter married the house would be lengthened and she would move into the longhouse with her husband. The more daughters there were, the longer then longhouse.
Apparently there was a men's staircase and a women's one - we are standing by the men's one!
As fascinating as Fou's stories were, it was very hot, and quite exhausting traipsing around village exhibits and temples to Confuscious and the like.
The Water PuppetsWe took a trip into the city centre to see a Water Puppets show.
While we were waiting for the puppet show to start, we had a look at some of the samples of eager puppets in the foyer - well, they look friendly enough!
And then we went to the restaurant on the roof of the city.
We booked another trip with Mr Fou - it was an all-day affair, including a lot of different activities.
After a long - and interesting - drive, we came to Ha Long city, which was once the capital before Hanoi.
But it was an exceptionally hot day, 40 degrees, and by the middle of the day we were really flagging.
But when we stood in the 40 degree heat and looked at those open boats, none of us felt ready to spend two hours on the water.
So we drove back to the hotel past the lush green paddy fields - didn't see anyone out working in them today.
Everywhere the local farmers had laid out their rice grain to dry. On driveways,
and even on the road itself.
The PoolWith such a hot day, we happily headed back to the hotel pool!
We didn't care about that. The pool was ju-u-u-ust the right temperature.
And then we went to the pool kiosk for an ice cream. The chappie really didn't 'get' the idea of ice cream cone!
On Saturday, while we were lunching inside the restaurant, a Christian church group came and performed a baptism in the pool.
Shopping TripOf course we had to go looking for souvenirs, that's what tourists do.
We couldn't find any big shopping centres or department stores, but the tiny city streets are like one great big department store.
And if I want to do some sewing, here are the buttons!
and all my other sewing needs.
Looking more closely, I could see that each one contained a snake, with a scorpion in its mouth.
What's it for? Well, it's snake wine, a specialty of Vietnam.
Apparently if you drink a small cupful twice a day before meals it will cure you of Lumbago, Rheumatism, and 'sweat of limbs'.
So ... 'Nam was fun. In many ways it reminded us of China.
Fou told us that under their Communist government they can do anything except protest.
Can't complain about that, ay?