Monday, October 25, 2010

101 reasons to love living in Hanoi

In 2001, Mark Rapoport and his family left New York to settle in Hanoi. The long-time expat and his Vietnamese partner run 54 Traditions, a gallery that sells handicrafts produced by ethnic minorities from all over the country. Almost every year, Rapaport’s two sons visit their parents and travel throughout the city.

Sword lake, HanoiSword lake, Hanoi

“Over the last nine years, my wife, Alison, and I (with some help from our two children Robert and Jane Hughes) have put together a list of 101 reasons why we love living in Hanoi,” Rapaport said. “We presented it as a book, entitled 101 reasons to love living in Hanoi, which we published last July to celebrate the 1,000th year anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Soldier Returns.. as a Tourist Da Nang, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Posted by Alan Buckelew
October 19, 2010
Like a lot of Vietnam veterans, I don't talk much about my experience "over there."
A Soldier Returns … as a TouristAlan with his daughters Erin and Fallon, and his wife Christine in Da Nang.

Until a few years ago if someone had asked me to make a bucket list of countries to visit, Vietnam would have been at or near the bottom. I guess you could say, “been there, done that.” I served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from June 1969 until June 1970. I was part of a recon platoon called Fox Force. We operated in the Central Highlands of Vietnam – in the mountains and jungles of that area. Unlike any unit I’m aware of we wore red scarves – always – even on combat missions. We had a well-earned reputation, and our red scarves clearly set us apart from other soldiers in our division. We were told the enemy had a $10,000 bounty on each of us. It didn’t really matter because in the year I was part of Fox, the enemy never killed a single member of our team. We were in combat frequently but were never ambushed or surprised. If we were a baseball team, we would have ended our season with all wins and no losses, and with most games pitched as no hitters. I’m sure history books will say the U.S. lost that war, but we were ahead when I left.

Like a lot of Vietnam veterans, I don’t talk much about my experience “over there.” I have been blessed with the ability to compartmentalize my combat experiences. They are like a box of Christmas ornaments up in the attic; I still have them, but they don’t get in the way of daily life. Vietnam veterans were, for the most part, not welcomed home and often quite the opposite, so compartmentalization was a useful way to avoid unwelcome confrontation.

Alan Buckelew, Princess Cruises President and CEO

Alan at Firebase Lois on his 21st birthday wearing the red scarf of his Fox Force platoon.

In 2000 my old unit, Fox, held a reunion, and has every year since. The Fox team comes from every walk of life in America, making us quite an odd collection of souls, but we share a common bond that only other combat veterans can appreciate. We wear our red scarves when we are together, but also wear red wrist bands, specially inscribed, when we are not together. I’m proud to say my youngest daughter had the inspiration for the red wrist bands. Sadly, about 25 percent of the team have passed away since our first meeting – all from Agent Orange-related cancers.

In the last few years I’ve wanted to return to Vietnam. I’m not completely sure why, but it just felt like it was time for me to complete the journey that began almost 40 years ago. Being blessed in my occupation, I booked an Asian cruise that sailed in December 2009. Unfortunately due to timing, cost and other personal issues, none of my Fox Force teammates could join me and my family on the cruise. The cruise began in Shanghai and ended in Bangkok – truly a fantastic way to visit the highlights of Asia. The cruise had two stops in Vietnam: Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City. I was excited to return to Vietnam, but also to share all of Asia with my family who had never traveled to this part of the world.

I was excited about our arrival in Da Nang, our first Vietnamese port of call. I awoke early to watch as the ship berthed. The port is not near the city, so all I could see was a small harbor and the surrounding countryside, which was at once familiar, but not the Vietnam I had experienced. Da Nang is a coastal city northeast of where I served. There are no jungles there, which is just as well, as no one would want to visit the areas where I served; they are too remote and densely vegetated.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Travel postcard: Hanoi, Vietnam

With its remnants of French-colonial architecture, lively ‘Old Quarter’ alleyways and streetside culinary culture Hanoi might just be Southeast Asia’s most charming capital city. It may be the oldest, too.

In October, the city entered party mode to mark the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Thang Long, the settlement established by King Ly Thai To on the Red River in the year 1010 that has grown into a metropolis of 6 million inhabitants.

Hanoi Travelers

Here are some suggestions from Reuters correspondents with local knowledge to help you make the most of a 48-hour visit:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10 Things Travel Guidebooks Won't Say

1. We’re already out of date.

After more than a week in $5-a-night hostels in Peru, Caitlin Childs was looking forward to a hot shower and a comfortable bed. But when she got to the Hotel Paracas, there was no hot shower, no bed – and no hotel. “It had been leveled in an earthquake the year before,” says Childs, a graphic designer and frequent traveler. It turned out her Footprint Peru Handbook – the latest edition – had been published a year and a half before her July 2008 trip.

Even without earthquakes, much of the information covered by guidebooks changes too fast for book publishers to keep up. Restaurants close, quaint markets lose their cachet, and trains change their schedules. If it’s essential to your trip, make a phone call before you go, says Peggy Goldman, the president of Friendly Planet Travel, a tour operator. Never rely on a guidebook for key information like whether you’ll need a visa to enter a country and how much it will cost, or what vaccinations you might need, Goldman says, because those facts can change rapidly. Although the guidebook’s web site may have more up-to-date information, travelers should still check with the consulate and look for CDC alerts for the latest information.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Halong Bay: A World of Mystery Viet Nam

Halong Bay is probably where you would find yourself. Majestic and mysterious, Vietnam’s Halong Bay is a breathtaking location with over 2000 incredible jagged islands and islets rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.

Halong Bay, VietnamHalong Bay, Vietnam

This superb panorama of limestone peaks enshrouded in mist, tumbling into the gently lapping sea and enclosing within its folds striking hidden caves is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The near-perpendicular pinnacles conceal the remains of many grottos and caverns, created over millions of years ago through a complex process of erosion whereby water trickled through limestone cracks enlarging them to create spectacular caves and resulting in the distinctive towers seen today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Get Ready Adventures in Vietnam’s Best Eco Lodges

Renowned for hiking, highly qualified local guides, stunning backdrops and a rich cultural heritage, Vietnam’s northwestern highlands are a prime destination for travelers looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure like no other. Making the region even more attractive are the spectacular eco-friendly accommodations built on a vision of community sustainability.

Mai Chau, VietnamMai Chau Valley, Vietnam

Mai Chau Lodge
Nestled in the stunningly beautiful mountainous region of Hoa Binh Province, 135 km south of Hanoi, Mai Chau Lodge strives to preserve local traditions, culture and the natural surroundings of its lush valley setting. The lodge is built from a socially and environmentally responsible vision. Using sustainable local materials, Mai Chau Lodge boasts a natural beauty, blending perfectly into its surroundings.