Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam. It was eclipsed by Huế during the Nguyen dynasty as the capital of Vietnam, but Hanoi served as the capital of French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. From 1954 to 1976, it was the capital of North Vietnam.
The city is located on the right bank of the Red River. Hanoi is located at 1,760 km north of Ho Chi Minh City.
October 2010 officially marked 1000 years since the establishment of the city.
I was given the opportunity to join a familiarization trip to Hanoi recently, together with five other Malaysian travel agents. I arrived with the brand new Malaysia Airlines plane, the 737-800 and stayed at the Eden Hotel, Hanoi. It is a local 3-star chain.
On the second day, we left Hanoi early in the morning and took a 4-hour bus ride to Ha Long Bay and checked-in onboard the Aprodite Cruiser.
Aphrodite Supreme is the first vessel of Aphrodite Cruises (VIT Ha Long Company Limited), which began operations in 2011 to cater for visitors sightseeing the Ha Long Bay area. This vessel is the result of the combination of traditional ship building and modern techniques and facilities. This vessel includes luxurious cabins decorated in European style combined with modern western comfort.
Ha Long Bay literally means descending dragon, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, located in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes
Its waters are host to a great diversity of ecosystems including offshore coral reefs, freshwater swamp forests, mangrove forests, small freshwater lakes, and sandy beaches. The folk tale has it that the dragons descended from heaven to help locals by spitting jewels and jade to the sea, forming a natural fortress against invaders; these precious stones are represented by the lush green outcrops. Several islands boast beautiful grottos and caves with contiguous chambers, hidden ponds and peculiar stone formations.
Ha Long Bay is about 170 kilometres northeast of Hanoi and 3.5 hours by road.
We visited a floating fisherman village and also a pearl factory around Ha Long Bay.
We spent a night on the Aphrodite Cruiser and visited the Surprise Cave the next morning. Surprise Cave is one of the many caves in and around Ha Long Bay.
Situated in the centre of the UNESCO-declared World Heritage area, the Surprise Cave is on Bồ Hòn Island, and is one of the finest and widest grottoes of Hạ Long Bay.
Ascending to the grotto, the way is covered by trees and foliage, and consists of great paved stone blocks.
Inside, it is partitioned into three chambers; with one of it being similar to a wide theatre hall. Many stalactites hang from the high ceiling, with numerous possible forms and shapes.
We took the bus back to Hanoi after checking-out from the Aphrodite Cruiser and arrived back in Hanoi by 5pm. After dropping off our luggages at the hotel, we were taken to see the Vietnamese Water Puppet Show.
We were taken for a ride in the Vietnamese Cyclo before lunch. It was an hour ride around the Hanoi Opera House, the busiest street in Hanoi.
We had dinner at a halal Indian restaurant, Namaste Hanoi. The food was wonderful and the ambience is suitable for both business and pleasure.
The next day we checked-out of Eden Hotel early in the morning and went to visit the Ho Chi Minh Presidential Palace.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is located nearby the palace. The Presidential Palace of Vietnam is a hundred-year-old French colonial building in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex surrounding Ba Dinh Square. Completed in 1906, the Presidential Palace is a a thoroughly French Beaux-Arts edifice painted mustard yellow.
The Palace is inextricably linked to Vietnam’s French colonial past, so much so that when Ho Chi Minh took over Hanoi and the rest of North Vietnam, he refused to live in the finer parts of the yellow monstrosity.
Ho instead chose to live in servants’ quarters behind the building. In 1958, a stilt house was built in the palace gardens to serve as his residence and office.
Before departing to the airport for our flights home, we stopped at the Temple of Literature.
The Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucius, was founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong. In 1076, Vietnam’s first university was established here to educate Vietnam’s administrative and warriors class. Parts of the university date from this earlier time period although the large complex has undergone many changes over the centuries.
There are side passages between the five courtyards, and these were used by Royalty who entered through the main gate, and students had to enter via the side passage ways. The open pavillions in the courtyards were used for students to study.
On either sides, there are pavillions with steles which are sitting on top of a large tortoise. These steles honour the schools successful doctorate candidates
We left Hanoi in the afternoon with a renewed sense of cultural appreciation.
Hat Yai, Thailand
Hat Yai is the fourth largest city in Thailand and is located at the Southern Gulf Coast. It is an extremely popular tourist spot for Malaysians and Singaporeans on holiday. Prices are high because of the Malaysian and Singaporean tourists. This place does not have much Western traffic.
We arrived in Hat Yai on 17 February 2012 with a group of qualifiers from MAA Takaful. They were in Hat Yai for the MAA Hat Yai Challenge 2011. Some of the participants played golf in Southern Hill Golf Course.
The 18-hole golf course designed by Perry Dye was opened in 1999. Its open-plan tropical style clubhouse is set amidst palm and coconut trees abounded with various floras which creates a very special serene atmosphere for the golfers to relax and enjoy their leisure.
The 18 holes, 7045 yards par 72 golf course is only 40-minute drive away from downtown Hat Yai.
The group arrived in five (5) buses from Kuala Lumpur. Upon arrival we took them for lunch at a local halal restaurant. After a 12-hour road trip, they were very much looking forward to the hearty, hot and spicy Thai delicacies. We made a few shopping stops in and around Hat Yai before checking-in at the Lee Garden Plaza Hotel, Hat Yai.
The area of the city of Jogjakarta is 32.5 km². While the city spreads in all directions from the Kraton (the Sultan’s palace), the core of the modern city is to the north, centring near the Dutch colonial-era buildings and the commercial district. Jalan Malioboro, with rows of pavement vendors and nearby market and malls, is the primary shopping street for tourists in the city, while Jalan Solo, further north, is a shopping district more frequented by locals. At the southern end of Malioboro, on the east side is the large local market of Beringharjo, not far from Fort Vredeburg a restored Dutch fort.
We arrived in Jogjakarta on 1 February 2012 with a group of golfers from MAA Takaful. They were in Jogjakarta for the MAA Platinum Leaders Conference 2012. They played a round at Merapi Golf Course.
Merapi Golf is sitting on 800 meters above sea level, with just the perfect climate and the most breath-taking panoramic view of Mount Merapi with the hinterland of Jogjakarta and the Indian Ocean, is worth trying to play on.
These 18 holes, 6370 meters par 72 golf course is only 30-minute drive away from the ancient city of Jogjakarta. The stunning design of Merapi Golf Course is truly masterpiece of a golf course.
The blend of the natural beauty and the freshness of mountainous weather, the challenging hilly landscape with volcanic rocks of million years makes the golf course one of the most attractive courses in Central Java and most definitely unforgettable.
We checked-in to the Grand Aston Hotel, Jogjakarta in the evening. Grand Aston Jogjakarta is a luxurious 5-star hotel set in a prime location in the centre of Jogjakarta. Local tourist attractions such as Galleria Mall, Tugu Monument and Museum Dirgantara are not far from the hotel. Also within easy reach is Jogjakarta Adisucipto International Airport.
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