Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A walk in the old quarter

When you look at a map, things appear closer than they are. We decided to take a short walk this morning that took until mid afternoon. Thankfully, there were lots of things to see along the way and we managed to make it back to our hotel merely hot and tired, but otherwise no worse for wear.

Above is what we believe is the opera house, our only clue being a sign advertising a symphony coming soon.

Part of our quest was to find the highest ranked restaurant in Hanoi, according to TripAdvisor. Our map didn't have enough detail to name all the streets, so we had to use our people skills to find our way. The first person told us to go two streets that way and turn right. Once there, the next person told us to go the opposite direction. The third encouraged us to continue the direction we were going and then go right again. The last person told us to turn around, go up two streets and turn left. This last bit of advice worked and we found a hardware store to eat at.

The establishment serves Bành Mi - which is a Vietnamese style sub sandwich. 

With all the walking, we saw many quaint buildings and tourists.

We also saw a lot of street vendors trying to make a modest living. Not an easy life.

We had to stop and sit down in the shade a few times.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chicken Alley

As the title of this post implies, there is an alley in Hanoi that has numerous vendors selling barbecued chicken. We sat on mini stools on the sidewalk. It was a beautiful evening to be sitting outside after a warm muggy day.

One of the workers came around to slice up the skewers for us. It was finger licking good.

We opted not to try the feet, but the wings were very good. The guys barbecuing were obviously expecting a big turnout this evening, as there were buckets of grilled chicken behind them already.

After the chicken, we headed further down the road to a Thai place that offers green sticky rice with coconut ice cream. We are enjoying an insider's view of Hanoi.

Vietnamese Women's Museum

Outside the museum is one of those cutouts that we had to step behind and be photographed. Why wouldn't you?

We learned a lot about the role women in Vietnamese society. One exhibit was dedicated to women's roles during the American war. Many women fought for their country and their resumes sounded very impressive. No wimpy girls here. 
The video which gave voice to a dozen street vending women was a powerful testimony to the determination of women today. 

After all that learning, we took a break at a coffee shop to enjoy a few minutes off our feet and refresh ourselves for the walk back to our hotel.

Lunch at the publishing house (Thê Giói)

Erik arranged for a welcome to Vietnam lunch for us at his workplace.

This was one of those meals that gets cooked on the table, or floor in this instance.
The pot has a fish soup that kept being replenished. We were impressed by the volume of food that was consumed.

It was a much more jovial occasion than this picture would suggest. We ate on the floor of the design team's office and were regaled with stories of Russia and Vietnam by Erik's director - first person on the left. English is his fourth or fifth language, and he speaks it very well. We were very honoured to be part of this feast.

Phyllis was sad that we didn't get to sit on a ream of paper like some of the others, but the food was so good, she got over it.  

The Temple of Literature

We visited the oldest university in Vietnam this morning, also known as The Temple of Literature.
It is a shrine to Confucius.

We still don't have a selfie stick, so an arm will have to do.

We haven't seen dragons on roofs for a while, so it was nice to reconnect.

Motorcycle style

It's amazing what you can do on a motorcycle, like sleep......

You can also buy these outfits that have hand covers, hoods and a matching face mask. Way cool.

Hanoi International Church

Our eldest led the service for Palm Sunday. The room is very large, so there were a lot more people there than we could capture with the camera from our seats. It was a complicated service beginning with a pre-processional responsive reading in a side room before we all walked in with palm branches and laid them by the altar. There was also a lot of mic passing going on. He did a great job.

After church we went out for lunch with a number of people, including the MCC reps. We went to what felt like a rural setting with walls around the compound, so the kids could run around without getting into the street. Sorry, no photos.

After lunch we were invited to the reps house for a game of Agricola. They have a baby which we passed around and a two and a half year old who entertained us with his non stop motion. It was great to meet Erik's support group. He's the only foreign volunteer they have, so he gets all the attention. What could be better than that?

After the game we had a snack of the best mangoes we've had in a long time and then went out for noodles and beef. Excellent fast food. We had so much fun we forgot to take pictures.

Hanging out in Hanoi

On Saturday Erik took us to a restaurant with lots of artsy ambiance. Classic jazz was playing in the background and the seats were very comfortable. The food was pretty good too.

In Erik's neighbourhood you can find almost everything, for instance, if you wanted something plastic, here it is.

We also managed a bit of family time. The connection was good, so we could see and hear each other well.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Meeting the parents

Friday night we went to Erik's home to meet his host family. We started out with tea and watermelon, had a short tour of the house, and then drove off in two cars to a restaurant for supper.

We were treated like royalty. The restaurant was gorgeous; we were seated between its two buildings enjoying the mix of indoor and outdoor dining. Our hosts ordered a huge variety of dishes so that we could get a taste of Vietnam. It was all delicious and it was fun to see how well they know Erik and how well he does speaking in Vietnamese. We had a wonderful time getting to know each other.

Friday, March 27, 2015

First day in Hanoi

After breakfast at the hotel we walked to Erik's workplace using his photo journey he emailed us, as well as a map. He was waiting for us on the street with a coworker. We were introduced around and given a tour. He works with a nice group of people.

We took a bus to MCC and had a fabulous lunch with three of the MCCers. Both the food and the company were fabulous. We then took another bus to the museum of fine arts. Erik and Arthur are posing in front of it. We spent a few hours marvelling at the works we saw.

After the museum we stopped at a cafe for cold beverages. Outside the window we watched a woman  fixing bicycle tires. Equal opportunity here.


Our first evening together we went out for supper of pho and then "drinks"

We are even happier than we look.

Out of Egypt

We are leaving the desert behind us for two weeks to visit our favourite SALTer.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Phyllis, Irini and Arthur went to Aswan by plane on Thursday. We went to visit a hospital there. The hospital has been around for about 100 years. It is a teaching hospital and they are training physicians to be family doctors. There is a huge need for this kind of healthcare.

A view of the Nile from the roof of the hospital. Tourism is down, so many cruise ships are docked these days. They offer four night trips to Luxor from Aswan.

We took a look at the souk which had been mainly for tourists, but now has been reclaimed for residents of Aswan.

It's really clean and people are friendly.

After our meetings we walked along the river and stopped at a cafe for fresh tangerine juice.
Young boys were swimming in the Nile. It was 30 C, so they were having a great time.

This is the first time in my life I have flown somewhere and back on the same day. Here is the view from the road on the way back to the airport. A few minutes from downtown and the desert stretches into the distance, along with the power lines from the dam.

Next time we hope to spend a bit more time getting to know people and seeing a few more of the sights.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Images of Egypt

Sunset on the Nile

Sunday, March 08, 2015

A Mosque and a Museum

The Mosque of Ibn Tulun

This is the oldest mosque in Cairo.

We went there with our  guests from Winnipeg last week.
When you arrive they put "slippers" on to your shoes so that you can walk around without causing the mosque to be unclean.

We climbed up this tower and got a view of the area.

The view of Cairo from the tower at the mosque.

Attached to the outside of the mosque are two adjoining houses making up a museum called the Gayer-Anderson Museum.

We went to the museum this Friday with some friends.

According to Wikipedia:

The museum takes its name from Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson Pasha, who resided in the house between 1935 and 1942 with special permission from the Egyptian Government. It is noted for being one of the best-preserved examples of 17th-century domestic architecture left in Cairo, and also for Gayer-Anderson's vast collection of furniture, carpets, curio, and other objects....

The museum consists of two houses built using the outer wall of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun as support. The larger house, located to the east... was built in 1632. It later came into the possession of a wealthy Muslim woman from Crete, and the home became popularly known as Beit al-Kritliyya, or "House of the Cretan Woman." The second house...was built in 1540. It later became known as "Beit Amna bint Salim," after its last owner. The two houses were joined by a bridge at the third floor level at an unknown point, and are both collectively known as Bayt al-Kritliyya.