Monday, February 2, 2009

Leaving Saigon

We were up early on this beautiful Sunday morning. I decided to walk down to the river while Stacy was getting ready for breakfast. I ventured out alone for the first time since we arrived and I attracted all kinds of guys on bikes trying to sell me a massage at a local parlor. Knowing the real reason behind their kind offers, I did my best to ignore the others and move on to the river to take a few pictures. It was another warm day and after my little tour, I returned to the hotel.

We had breakfast and then walked around for a couple of hours getting last minute gifts at another hotel. I found some great Wine holders that I was told were hand carved and decorated.

Feeling a bit hungry after our walk, we headed into a Pho 24 restaurant. Pho 24 appears to be a chain, since we saw several throughout Ho Chi Minh City. This one had the best Pho yet. For about 15,000 Vietnam Dong or about 85 cents we had a large bowl of Pho filled with noodles chicken and vegetables.

It was now time to bid farewell to Saigon and head for the airport. The doorman hailed a taxi for us and we were off. Upon arrival, it was the most chaotic scene I have experienced in an airport. The check-in line was a single one and long. As we approached the entrance to our line, the attendant told us that we could not check in until 4PM and it was just 2:30. There was no way we could ever get into that line at 4 and make it on the flight. So, we sat a while and then I went over to customer service. Lucky for us that I did, since I found that we were in the wrong line. Our line was on the other side of the airport and there were only about nine people in it. The line moved slowly but we would be checked in way before our time to leave. As we approached the desk, we presented our passports and had our luggage weighed. We were under the limit again, thank goodness. Vietnam Airlines has a lower weight limit than international flights and with all of the souvenirs we bought and the 5 pounds of candy I had for the orphanage, I thought that we would definitely over weight.

The flight to Hue was a short one, about an hour. The airport was in Phu Bai, about a 20 minute ride from Hue. I had been to Phu Bai many times while serving in Vietnam and landing there was very familiar. Again, I had an increased heartbeat and a bit of a rush when I landed but it didn’t last long. I was coming back to Hue to relive the good memories and not think about any ghosts that may have been left behind.

When we finally arrived, we had to get on a shuttle to get to the terminal. The luggage area was noisy and the belt carrying the baggage was squeaky and slow.

The sun had set so I would not be able to see any of the familiar places that I knew as we traveled from Phu Bai to Hue along a road I had driven many times before. Traffic was no where near what it was in Saigon, but it was still heavy as we approached the center of Hue. I noticed a gas station near the center of town that looked very familiar. I believe it may have been the one that was an Esso in 1970 and now bore a BP sign.

When we arrived at the hotel we were greeted warmly. The La Residence was the former Governor’s Guest House. It had been captured by the NVA during Tet in 1968 but was retaken by the US a few days later.

Our luggage was gathered as we were steered towards the bar area while our documents were being reviewed. We were greeted with welcome drinks from the bar and received a full briefing from the desk clerk about the hotel and surrounding area.

When we arrived at our room, we were in awe. This relatively inexpensive hotel would have been a 5 star plus resort in the US. The floors were hardwood and tile; there was a French influence throughout. Our deck extended about 30 feet and at the end of it were palm trees. The Perfume River and the Citadel could be seen directly from the deck.

After Stacy had taken a few pictures of the place, we went to dinner. We were greeted by our waitress РTram Рwho spoke relatively good English. We had a traditional Vietnamese dinner that was again, inexpensive and excellent. I had traditional Dalat wine and a cr̬me brulee dessert.

We did not go outside of the hotel grounds that evening, we wanted to explore during daylight hours, first. The hotel also provided a business center at no extra cost. I used it to check e mail but could not access this blog. I later found out that blogs are blocked in Vietnam, so I would need to wait until I returned home before updating the blog. So, I would have to take great notes to make sure I did not miss anything.

We retired for the evening. In the morning we would do some touring and then it would be off to Kim Long Orphanage, the main reason for my return to Vietnam.

1 comment:

  1. I'm hoping I can find a good recipe for Pho so I can make it for you!