I don’t often frequent tourists establishments in Hanoi. Prices are usually high and they have a phony feel about them. Some are experts in easing extra cash from your pockets. They have a secret magnet that attracts greenbacks. I enjoy riding the back country on my motorbike. But, occasionally I enjoy a decent hamburger of being swaddled in soft oily hands. Here are some of my favorite places. People are treated well and honestly here.


The fountain at the Old Quarter is a lovely place to just sit and watch the world go by. Trying a restaurant here requires a credit report and the title to your car. It is surrounded by high-priced establishments and has recently been ruined by a food court: KFC, Burger King, Dominos, and Duncan Doughnuts. Expect to pay double the cost of your air airfare. A camera store on the corner is the place to get your prints printed.

My favorite tourist place to eat in Hanoiis the Gecko Restaurant at 85 Hang Bac Street. Do not confuse it with other Gecko Restaurants. This place is especially friendly with charming receptionists and some pretty funny waiters. They are more than helpful and the cook is first-class. The prices are more than a Vietnamese restaurant but not as much most tourist places. A spaghetti dinner is about $3.00. Their Happy Hour Special is $2.50 for a hamburger, fries, and a beer.

The Gecko is a great place to kick back, listen to Bob Dyaln and Regga music, and they have wonderful places to rest your hands.

Put yourself in the hands of Lam and Hoa (Anna). The Gecko also offers rooms for $18 and can book any popular tours like Halong Bay.

Check out the specials and get your money's worth.

Lam will get you the best seat in the place.

Chinh, the manager, does a great job. Anything you want he can get. He is already famous in Viet Nam for his efficiency and will soon be famous throughout the world. As people say - He's Quite a guy!

MARGUERITE SPA

Hanoi is choked with massage joints. Unfortunately most of them look similar from the outside. Stroll down any street and barkers will invite you in for heavenly delights. Once inside it's a different story. Your therapist might resemble Thor or handle you as gently as Lennie did with his mouse in "Of Mice and Men." Vietnamese believe in deep muscle massage. They rip you apart the same way they do their chickens and you are likely to emerge looking more like Quasimoto than Audry Hepburn.

This wonderful Spa is a cut above the rest. After being kicked about like a football I swore I would never gat another massage. (I was seldom able to limit myself to name, rank, and serial number) I discovered this place at 68 Ma May street in Hanoi. WOW! Talk about relaxing luxury. The women are marvelous. They offer a full line of body care. Hoa treats me like a king and I never use anyone else.

Hoi An

 

ANH SAO VANG Digital Camera Center

There is nothing worse than traveling and having something go wrong with your camera. Getting your camera repaired in Viet Nam can be risky. I have often sent mine with a minor problem only to have it returned with a major one.

On this trip to Hoi An I lost my battery charger. As a professional photographer I should have carried a spare one. As a human being I am pretty lazy and left the spare home.

What a lucky break to find Cong and his beautiful and gracious wife, Sang. They own the Anh Sao Vang Digital Camera Center, at Nguyen Duy Hieu street in Hoi An.

After I explained my problen, Sang offered me a chair and a coffee. (Her English is very good.)

Cong was busy dismantling cameras on the floor. He went right to work on my problem. He did not have a charger to fit my Camera, a Fujifilm X100s. Although a great camera, it eats batteries like kids eat popcorn. 

Not having the correct battery charger was not a problem. Cong gathered up some parts and built me one. This is a man you can trust.

Looking for a great place to stay in Hoi An? Try my favorite spot, The Big Sea. The small botique is rin by ----------. She is a smiling tiny little woman so look that you don't trip over her.

The hotel is spotless and the old town is just a short away. Rooms are spacious, some have balconies, and the bathrooms are completly modern.

I always enjoy having breakfast on the roof. It offers splended views and the food is first-class. They offer an omlet that actually resemnles an omlet rather than a frisby. The fruit and yogurt always tempts me to eat healthy.

BILL BEN

73 Tran Hung Dao, Hoi An

Hoi An is cluttered with taylor shops, some good andfeaturing quality hand taylored clothing, some bad offering junk that will quickly fall apart. So, how do you know where to shop? No problem. Just ask me.

Bill Ben is the best shop in Hoi An. I never shop anyplace else.The people are great, the tayloring excellent, the prices reasonable. Kick back and enjoy a cold water or hot tea while the ladies treat you like a king.

They can make anything here, from a great classic dress or suit, or something outrageous.

Lieu, the owner, is waiting to serve you. 

HUE

Oddly enough, Hue is not well vivited by tourists. Some tour companies combine it with Hoi An or Danang. This is an advantage to you. Prices remain low and bargans on hotels abound. We got a great deal at the Tanh Lic Hotel, a clean and lovely hotel with something unusual in Viet Nam - a bathtub! They also feature the largest breakfast buffet in the country.

The staff are accommodating, cheerful, and speak very good English. The English is refreshing since few people on Hue speak it.

Various dishes abound: cakes, fruit, fried eggs, omlets, local favorites, Vietnamese dishes, and about anything else you might like. The women are spotless, lovely, and ready to meet your every need.

CENTURY HOTEL

For people who lean toward luxury and want to forget they are in Viet Nam there are any number of nice hotels that could be situated in Madrid, London, Crete, or Moscow. OK, maybe not Moscow. For the best rates find one long in the tooth. The Century was a great choice for us. Located besided the river it had wonderful views. For the special rate of $38 it had all the amenities one could want. The staff are nothing less than marvelous.

The pool is a nice size, clean, and there are plenty of towels.

The views from the water side rooms are lovely. There are two restaurants, an exercise room, and the staff is professional, cheerful, and willing to help.

Talk about breakfast! This place has it - all fresh and all tasty.

Talk about great views. Have breakfast inside or outside and watch the boats glide by as you prepare for the day. The chief made the best omlet I haver eaten in Viet Nam.

Give them a try. You won't be sorry you did.

 

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