Some of us were up when Michael and Chau left the hotel this morning for the airport. Bernie had plans to do some touring and Eleanor and I were accepted as companions! From 8:30 to 5 we traipsed on his walking tour. Others went into the Old Quarter or elsewhere....
Bernie led us first to the mausoleum for a look at Uncle Ho's body, then to the Canadian embassy (right across the street!) to use the computer and washroom, on to the Fine Arts Museum, lunch at Koto's, a tour of the Temple of Literature (Vietnam's first university), through some back alleys where thriving markets operated to the Hanoi "Hilton" (originally a French prison for Vietnamese prisoners, then a prison for American pilots) and then back to the hotel. Along the way we noted children rollerblading at a park where men were playing a game involving a shuttlecock-like ball and feet and body parts other than hands.
I was exhausted but Bernie joined the others for dinner at the Green Mango, a place mentioned in travel books and therefore a bit disappointing. Eleanor and Sharon had a quiet dinner in the neighbourhood.
Next morning Bernie had another tour planned! Eleanor, Sharon and I joined him in a walk through the Old Quarter. It is also known as 36 Streets in which each street seems to specialize in a particular item. For instance there were streets of shoes, kitchen racks, paper products, Christmas ornaments, wooden stamps, tin smithing, picture framing, hinges, paint products, keys and padlocks, and of course, silk. We three ladies let Bernie continue for we had serious shopping to do! After having expended energy and money I returned to the hotel to find Brendan sitting down, very unlike him. He sent me on to the Women's Museum which highlighted the history and the influence of women in North Vietnam in particular. As with all the museums I filtered out the propaganda but was still impressed by the role women played during the wars with the French and the Americans.
Hoan Kiem Lake, with its Sunbeam Bridge and lovely walking area, made our part of Hanoi very special. Most of us preferred Hanoi to Saigon as a place to spend time. But it was time to go.
The two minivans managed to hold all our bike boxes and luggage for the journey to the airport. Robin and Dan went to the Korean Air counter while the rest of us went to Air Canada. A delayed flight and a 3:30 breakfast left little time for sleep. With an 11 hour wait at the airport Doug, Gala and Bernie headed into Narita where Doug experienced some live eel, I think! Sharon and Eleanor, Brendan and Jadine waited out the hours at the airport while I paid for a long sleep in a hotel room.
Flight home was late leaving the airport and was highlighted by great turbulence and our hearing of the pilot calling Tokyo airport several times....common sense reasoned that he had forgotten to turn the mike off but it was a bit uncomfortable, to say the least!
Finally we are home to face the rush of Christmas or off to more adventures. This group of 16 was wonderful to be with and look forward to seeing each other on another cycle trip sometime soon.