Thursday, May 12, 2005

Arriving in Singapore

Tiger Airways flight was punctual. We arrived in Singapore at around 11 pm. Adeline went back by bus, while I tried to catch the MRT train to the city, but there was no more connecting train to the city at Tanah Merah interchange. So I had to rush to take the bus at the basement area of the airport to the city. The bus runs well until 12 midnight.

Good Bye Hanoi, Vietnam

We arrived at Noi Bai airport at around 4.30 pm, pretty early as our departure time was on 6.45 pm. This enabled me to walk around the small Noi Bai airport.

Inside the Noi Bai airport departure / arrival waiting area, it was pretty empty without much passengers. And, amazingly, the chairs are all hard steel seat. Inside this area, which was after checked-in and immigration checked, there didn't seem to have any restaurant available. However, there are 2 restaurant at the highest floor of the public area in the airport, albeit the price is expensive.

Checked in Tiger Airways on Return Leg

Checked in to Tiger Airways was handled by Vietnam Airlines staff. The print out of the confirmation email of the reservation was needed here. The process was fast and smooth, and the Vietnam Airlines staffs were very friendly.

However, international departure from Noi Bai airport will be levied USD $14 Ve Thu Phuc Vu Hanh Khach, or in English Passenger Service Charge. It was in essence departure tax, which I thought was very expensive.

Vietnam Airlines Mini Bus

Vietnam Airlines operates minibuses that run between Noi Bai airport and Hanoi for USD $2 each. The buses and ticket office are located opposite the Vietnam Airlines office at Quang Trung. We pre-bought the bus tickets, although it's not necessary. Prepare small change of US Dollars, if not they will give you the change in Vietnam Dong instead, of course, also in unfavorable rate (typically VND 15,000 to USD $1).

Taxi in Hanoi

After a short rest at Wing Hotel lobby, it was time to go back. We took a taxi, although the Vietnam Airlines office is just a kilometer away. The taxi used meter, and it was air-conditioning, the main reason why we took a taxi. The fare from Hang Non, the street beside Wing Hotel, to the Vietnam Airlines office costs VND 11,000. Basically it was the flag down fare, with the meter not moved at all for such a short distance travel.

A Peek Into Wing Hotel Room

Our room at Wing Hotel (or Wing Cafe, as cafe is more common term in Vietnam). Room was comfortable, with air-conditioning, satellite TV and hot shower. It costs us USD $11, due to $3 extra for early checked in.

Bought T-Shirt Again

I almost immediately sweated when stepped out of the air-conditioned hotel room. So the t-shirt got wet so easily that I had to bought new cloth to change everytime I went out. Luckily the clothes in cheap in Hanoi. The t-shirts I bought costs around VND 20,000 to VND 25,000.

Street Vegetable Seller

There was a common sight in Hanoi, where the vendors, typically women, carrying whatever that can be carried, from vegetables to fruits, to sell on the streets.

Old Quarter

'Old' in Old Quarter is a bit confusing, as only small proportion of the buildings here are more than a hundreds years old. So the 'old' in Old Quarter more reflected the activities that are carried on it since ancient times. However, the buildings in Old Quarter have interesting architecture too.

Because shops were taxed by the width of frontage on the market, storage and living space moved to the rear. They developed into the long and narrow houses, called tube houses, where small frontage hides very long rooms. Typical measurement for such a tube house is 3 m x 60 m.

Ben Ngoc Son and Huc Bridge

Ben Ngoc Son (Ngoc Son Temple) with the beautiful Huc Bridge (Sunbeam Bridge) stands majestically on Hoan Kiem Lake.

Ly Thai To Statue

Statue of Emperor Ly Thai To, founder of the Ly dynasty (1010-1225) is around Hoan Kiem Lake towards French Quarter.

Mail a Postcard at Post Office

We walked through International Post Center at 6 Dinh Tien Hoang, just beside Hoan Kiem Lake. I decided to mail a postcard back to Singapore to myself. There were postcards on sold in post office, however, only when I was about to leave only got people to man the counter. So I bought a stack of 10 postcards for VND 25,000 (Expensive!) from street sellers that roamed around looking for 'prey'.

The postage to Singapore was cheap, only VND 7,000. I was not sure it's air mailed or surface mailed though, as the postcard only reached me 1 month later.

The Tortoise Tower at Noon

We walked around Hoan Kiem Lake to passed through the French Quarter. However we didn't venture afar as the weather was very hot and humid. Anyway, again The Tortoise Tower (Thap Rua) wouldn't be missed at Hoan Kiem Lake.

St. Joseph Cathedral

It was our last day in Hanoi and Vietnam, so we went to some places that we hadn't been to yet and did some last minute shopping. Our first stop was French-built St. Joseph Cathedral, which is located two blocks west from Hoam Kiem Lake, where Ly Quoc Su becomes Nha Chung.

Interior of the St. Joseph Cathedral. The statue is dedicated to "Queen of Peace".