Friday, February 28, 2014

Coffee Beans and Post Stamps...Saigon

Before I contemplate navigating a street in Saigon, I need to
ensure I am of sound mind and body. To do that, I need a 
double shot of this case it was a coffee at 
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at Kumho Asiana Plaza.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ooh la la..exercise in Saigon

Poolside aquafit

"Oohh la la..let's exercise"
There is only one person who can say this without getting 
a shrug from me and that is Caroline from aqua fit. 
Caroline is French and has to be one of the most enthusiastic
and energetic people I have come across in Saigon. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New directions... #expatdiary #vietnam

On my first visit to Vietnam, nearly two years ago, my predecessor (the woman who lived in our house before us) kindly passed me her mammoth business card file book. All she said was "you will need this". I was mightily impressed. The cards were categorised and marked, explaining the obvious English.

I still have that book and used it frequently until I started to venture out on my own. You would think, I would do the same, file them neatly away, by category. You would right. Unfortunately, I didn't think.

So here I sit, tackling my own mammoth business card file. I feel like the little kid who sits down on a warm summer's day and decides to separate her M&M candy collection by colour and then discovers that they have melted into one big mess...the M&M signature...barely visible.

I persevered and thought of this blog and what it has come to represent these past 18 months. My original intention was to keep a daily blog of events. Unfortunately, I have one blog too many and it has not worked according to plan. I often wonder what to do about it. It dawned on me as I sorted and sifted that the answer was right in front of me. 

Readers often write to me with questions and as time goes by it is a more frequent occurence. The questions vary...

Some readers live in Vietnam and are looking for tips.
Some used to live in Vietnam and want to stay connected.
Some were here during the Vietnam War and read vicariously.
Some are planning a trip and would like suggestions.
Some are thinking of moving to Vietnam either for 
the firsts time or coming back after a long hiatus.
Some are travelling solo, some with a family.

It has been a fascinating journey...
researching and answering your questions.

With your questions in mind, 
I plan to make some modifications to this blog to allow readers
 to find what they are looking for.  
I thank you all for your interest!

Before you go, have you seen the movie
  Owl and the Sparrow by Stephane Gauger?
If you enjoy foreign films and want a glimpse 
into the Vietnamese culture, see this movie. 
I loved it!

view here

Monday, February 17, 2014

Armchair Traveller...Vietnam

Before moving to Vietnam I took every opportunity to learn about the country that was about to become my new home. I selected novels, cookbooks, guide books, picture books and movies. I have left no page unturned. Best of all, just when I think I have it all, I discover something new. 

For those of you who are new to this blog, Expat Diary Viet Nam, I have another blog, Collage of Life where I feature the Brown Paper Book Club. I have included it at the top of this page. Once you click on the will see TRAVEL: VIETNAM ...listing my favourite books and movies about Vietnam.

Adventure at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort

Last week I received a message via Instagram that made me smile.

I read your blog about InterContinental Danang and here I am. 
I arrived two hours ago. It is such a breathtaking place!
Vics Blog..Esotonian expat in Singapore

Small world that it is, I was at the resort as well. 
We were ships passing in the night but I was touched that
Vic read my blog post and remembered it. Even better that
she made the decision to travel to the resort as a result.

The original post about the resort is here.
My experience at the InterContinental Danang 
last week is as follows..

I returned home to Vietnam last week with a new status. In a matter of days, I went from "empty nester" to "tag-along" wife.

Mr. H travels frequently for work. I rarely had the chance to join him over the years with children at home but my new found freedom has put a new spin on life. I have been scrutinising his itinerary these past few days..looking for travel opportunities and found a few.

My promise to Mr. H is to travel sight is business. He has his agenda and I have mine. Unfortunately, my first trip out of the gate did not go as planned.

Last week, I  joined the tail end of his business trip to explore the new InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Danang, Vietnam. It has been on my hit list ever since I wrote about it here.

It was a one hour flight from Saigon...easy. I was told to look for a driver holding a sign who would escort me to the resort... I thought it would be easy.

I arrived to flurry of signs but none bearing my name or the name of the hotel. One woman was convinced I was a Mrs. Neil...and that I was unaware of the fact. I passed. I did spot one sign in the distance, scratched on a piece of paper which simply said "Jeanne". I thought it was odd that it did not have my last name but..I have learned, when in Vietnam, you go with the flow. I approached the man holding the sign, said I was "Jeanne" and asked if he was going to the InterContinental resort..he nodded and said "Yes". He then lead me to the curbside to wait while he brought around the car.  While he did, I sent Mr. H a text to say I found my driver, was not certain where I would end up but was hoping for the best.

The car arrived...

Now..this is when some people might have thought it strange that a luxury resort like the InterContinental would send a banged up car in need of repair to transport guests. I guess I am not like most people. But to be safe, I asked again if he was going to the InterContinental resort and he nodded, saying "Yes". I had no reason to doubt him...he was emphatic.

The lack of seat belts was a concern but I persevered. We sped off at lightening speed with the horn blasting away at every possible intrusion. Ten minutes into the ride we took a hard turn around a corner and as we door went flying past me. I grabbed it, closed it again and asked one more time if we were going to the InterContinental resort..he said "yes".  Another ten minutes and the drivers phone rang..he answered and then passed it to me. His manager was on the line, wanting to know my destination..I said the InterContinental resort..there was silence and then several questions which I did not understand. We both hung up. I had a bad feeling.

On the road to the InterContinental with the Goddess of Mercy statue in the distance.

Within a few minutes Mr. H's PA, Quynh, called me. She was waiting at the hotel for me to check in and wondered if something happened. By this point, I knew something was amiss and passed my phone to the driver. The tone of his voice spoke volumes. He passed back the phone and Quynh told me I was in the wrong car. The driver did not speak English and was transporting me to a hotel in the opposite direction of where I wanted to be. There was another "Jeanne" waiting at the airport.

He pulled over, the phone went back and forth between myself and the driver for what seemed an eternity. Once the phone banter was over, he got out, hailed a cab and quickly transferred me and my luggage into the cab before driving off with horn blazing.

I looked at the cab driver, he looked at me. I said 'InterContinental?" He said "yes". Quynh suggested she speak to him on the phone to confirm, I thought it was a great idea. In the end, my thirty minute drive from the airport to the resort took two hours. By the time I arrived, everyone knew about it..a flurry of apologies ensued. I never did find out what happened to the hotel driver..I was just glad to be there.

As for the did not disappoint, even in the midst of monsoon like winds which howled through our room on my first night. 

The next morning...I wandered up and over, in and around the hotel and was captivated by it's mystical charm. Bad weather aside, I knew that when the sun shined and the winds softened, it would be a wonderful spot to spend a few days. I am forever the optimist..and felt it here.  Especially after spending a few hours in the spa..which was worth every minute!

The hotel is set in the Son Tra Peninsula, a secluded haven along the foreshore of the South China Sea in Danang. They say the famed architect Bill Bensley "has woven his magic" throughout every space into a place "Where Myth Meets Luxury". It is clear that he has done just that.  I have never experience anything like it..where "traditional Vietnamese design meets modern architectural flair". 

What fascinated me most were the statues of monkeys at ever turn. They are everywhere...and I mean everywhere. They appear to honour the rare red face monkeys that live in the lush national park that surrounds the resort. I was told that if you awake early in the morning, you might seem them in the trees. No surprise that this area is referred to as "mythical Monkey Mountain".

There are many design features in this resort that are truly unforgettable...the colours used throughout are wild and imaginative. Alice in Wonderland meets Versace was one of my passing thoughts.

My photos do not capture the magic of this resort. To fully appreciate it, you need to view the video.

I can not say my first jaunt as a tag-along wife was a quiet affair. Word travelled fast about my adventure from the airport to the hotel. It was clear that Mrs. H was on the premises. So much for travelling sight unseen.

I am hoping for one more try this Hong Kong. 
It is familiar territory..I have a good feeling about this one.
Wish me luck!

Thinking of travelling to Danang?
If so, be sure to visit Hoi An.
Past posts...
My past travels to Hoi An...
A Weekend in Hoi An

If you are interested in staying at 
InterContinental Danang 
click here

Photos by Jeanne Henriques