Arrived in Hanoi

Train street in Hanoi

I am in Hanoi Vietnam and things are going great. To be honest I am tired but I am still trekking along in my travels.

My original plans had me going to Sapa for a hike and a homestay but instead I break up my Hanoi visit with a Halong Bay crise (actually Bai Tu Long Bay )

My Hanoi visit begins at a Hilton hotel that I booked with some leftover points. It is nice to splurge and stay in a western style comfort hotel every once in a while .

I have only been in Hanoi for a short while and I am already a fan. I mean it is busy and the roads are super crowded with cars and motorbikes but something about it is magical. I am anxious to get to know the city better.

But first I need to take care of the sensor on my “fancy” camera. It has many spots on it. I watch sensor cleaning videos and it seems like there is no way I can safely clean it with what I have with me. I google camera repair shops in the area and find one a couple blocks from my hotel. I arrive at the small shop and there are two men working. They don’t speak much English but I get them to understand that my sensor has spots. One of the men cleans the spots for me. When I ask how much to pay for he says no charge for the service. I never get anything free anymore! This must be a good sign.

I spend the next day or so wandering aimlessly around town. I visit the Ngoc Son temple at Hoàn Kiem Lake. By the lake they have the walking streets (Pedestrian-only hours start from Friday 6 p.m until Sunday 12 p.m.). It is here I first experience school kids wanting to interview me to practice english. It is a common theme as I noticeably stand out in southeast asia with my light colored hair and bigger build. I guess look like a good person to practice with. I oblige as much as possible to be helpful but at one point in my travels it becomes quite frustrating (I’ll talk about that another time).

Ngoc Son temple

The turtle is significant. There is a story about a sword carrying turtle at the lake.

During the walking streets kids get to “drive” these amazing vehicles all over the streets. It is fun to watch the excitement.

Upcoming boxing match near the lake

More shots from around Hanoi

And as part of my series “Instagram ruins everything” I arrive to the famous Hanoi train street to find it blocked off for traffic. It has been closed just weeks prior to my arrival for safety reasons. Apparently people couldn’t stop doing dangerous poses and the government had enough. It would have been cool to see when it was full of life. A guard yells at me while I am trying to to take the photos below, although security is not consistent, a guard on one side of the street is strict and guard on other side doesn’t care how long you stand there to take pictures.

After wandering by train street I go back to my hotel to rest up a bit before my night food tour.

Train from Cairo to Aswan

After a long day of sightseeing we rushed to the train station where we wait for a train that shows up whenever it decides to show up for our overnight to Aswan.

This is my first overnight train ride after many years. I have a private cabin as one of the perks of paying for the single supplement. My cabin during this route isn’t too terrible and I take a Benadryl at the beginning of the ride. People on my tour complained about the ride but I found it to be very peaceful and restful. I didn’t quite enjoy the bathroom or breakfast and dinner for that matter but things could have been worse. But the ride back to Cairo on the other hand was terrible (talk about that later).

It is on the train that I suspect I got my Egypt belly bug because a day after this is when I start to have really bad cramping and you know what. When I arrive in a country that has bacteria that is incompatible with my body is I early on tend to start brushing my teeth with the local water. The theory here is that it’s going to eventually get you in some form or another why not get it at the beginning and get it over with. However this time I think it backfired a bit because Egypt bacteria is a worthy opponent. When I was in India it didn’t take me too long to recover but my body really did not like Egypt bacteria.… Or it could’ve been just run-of-the-mill food poisoning. Luckily my worst day and night happened to coincide with a comfortable hotel night and a felucca ride that required very little physical activity and a very strong dose of Imodium A.D.

The dinner

Nuremburg

Today is the last day of sightseeing in Germany and we chose to spend it as a day trip to Nuremburg on the way back to Frankfurt.
When deciding where our our day trip would be, Nuremberg was on the list but with some hesitation. The only thing I knew about the town was Nuremberg trials and I feared that would consume the town. To our delight, Nuremberg was so much more and I wished we would have scheduled a night here to be able to see more.

We started of with an early train ride; well not that early. We ended up getting to the town about noon. We locked up our bags at the station and started our walk.

Always number one on our minds is food (well number 1 for me is where are the toilets because I always have to go). We find a cafe to have a little meal before we move on.

More sausages!

By the cafe there is a shopping area where craftsmen sell their unique items. I wanted to come back to buy some souvenirs but later forgot.

Craftsmen’s Courtyard

After some window shopping we walk through the old town. We pass some cafes and a monument to World War II refugees.

We visit to the St Lawrence Church (started 1360). Despite WW II the church survived mostly intact due partly to luck and pro-activeness in hiding and protecting precious parts.

After the church we wander around the town some more.

“Durer ” Rabbit

Finally we plan to visit the Germanic National Museum. Our map reading skills fail us because we end up going in circles. We eventually find it. We don’t have a ton of time left since we have a train to catch. We try to do the express version and finally towards the end I find the Durer works (but take no photos). The selection at the museum was pretty impressive. I would definitely schedule more than an hour or so here (unlike us).

We loved Nuremberg and definitely would have spent more time here. I will be sure to put it on the list to swing by again the next visit to Germany.
Now to catch the train back to Frankfurt.

We are caught on the train! But later Beer.

As I mentioned before I was happy to leave Baden-Baden a day earlier. Besides the bad service it wasn’t a terrible place but there are so many better places to visit. Vacation time is short.
I booked the train tickets late but this time we didn’t have to pay for 1st class. However somehow I was only able to pay for a seat reservation and not the full ticket online. I have no idea how I did that and kept trying to figure out how to buy my ticket online when we already had a reservation. Never figured it out and ended up buying the train tickets at the station the next morning. Our train stops in Mannheim where we switch to another train to Munich. Besides having a hard time finding our car (even after thinking we mastered the system) the trip was pretty uneventful until the end.
After a while I noticed we started making Munich stops so it was time to gather our things. We slow down to the station and Carlos starts to leave with his backpack down the aisle when somehow the belt to his backup that was hanging down got trapped in a seat. He paused to pull it out but it was just stuck. I tried to pull on it a bit and it would not budge. The doors opened for the station and we started to panic. A few others attempted and it was not moving. I decide I need to run to the doors and ask them to hold since we are stuck. I was too late, the doors had shut and there was no opening them. At this point I was OMG we missed our stop (which at the time seemed like a really big deal but in the grand scheme of things probably not). The train started moving and I realize it wasn’t our stop, our stop was actually next. It bought us some time but that belt was not moving no matter what new strategy we imposed on it. Carlos tries to clip it with his nail clippers but it is too tough. Another passenger starts looking through her makeup bag for makeup scissors. She finds a pair. Another guest cuts and Carlos is free, with a slightly broken backpack now. Just in time for Munich Hauptbahnhof (the main train station). After all that drama we exit the train and joyfully walk a couple blocks to our hotel to unload.

Since we waited too long to book our hotels we missed out on some money saving opportunities closer to all the tourist spots. We chose instead to book the well maintained and decorated Arthotel Munich. Arthotel is a art themed economy hotel near the train station. Throughout the hotel there is modern art decor and many doors are painted with pictures of artists and other famous people. We stayed in the Elvis room for our stay. I didn’t love the part of town we were in since it was a little of a walk to the tourists sites but it was clean, friendly and good value for the money we paid.

 

Butt chair

Normally I am very educated on what a city has to offer and make lots of notes on choices of activities while we are there. For Germany I did the bare minimum. I had too many distractions leading up to the trip. When we arrived in our room we started doing a little Rick Steves research in our guide. There were two beer tours we could possibly do that afternoon. Not a lot of preparation needed for that so it was right up our alley. Of the two tours one was strictly a beer one and the other was a beer plus German food tour (BAVARIAN BEER). We decided to take the beer plus food one so maybe we can look like we weren’t lushes that didn’t desire to know anything but beer. Against my better judgement I took the advice in the book about just showing up at the train station to book and the tour was sold out (Bad Rick Steves!). I could have easily booked the tour from the hotel before we left. The guy at the desk tells us that sometimes people do bail out last minute and we could come back before the tour starts and see if they have a last minute spot for us. We still have an hour to wait so we sit on the steps of the train station. We think about trying to make it to the other tour which starts a little further away but we decided to sit and wait. Closer to the time the tour starts there is another couple waiting standby. The odds aren’t good we are going to make it in. Groups slowing trickle in but when it is time to start 4 people still haven’t arrived. The person at the desk lets us in the tour. We pay as the tour guide hands out beers outside the train station and starts giving us some background info for the tour. While we are standing there the missing 4 appear but luckily we get to stay in the tour. That was a close call. Moral of the story if you know you want to take a tour, book it right away. (We did that for the tours scheduled the next day).
The tour starts with a beer and some background info while we are still at the train station.

The tour is an active tour that utilizes public transportation to get around (no huge AC tour buses). We together walk to the metro and take it to our first location the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum

Our guide takes us in for samples and intruduces the different beer styles and tells us about the German Purity Beer Law.

 

Some pretzels to soak up the beer

After our beers our guide took us through the museum where he explained about the history and what some of the symbols were.

Famous beer maid

Next stop was a visit to the HofbrauKeller beer hall where we sampled some German sausages and other goods.

This special sausage is specific to Bavaria and is primarily eaten in the morning. Weisswurst is made from veal and pork and was very good with the sweet mustard we ate with it.

The tour guide also explained the significance of the maypole and how mischievous people steal them and use them to barter for beer parties. Each sign represent what services the town or area provides.

Finially we end up the tour outside the famous Hofbräuhaus. We did not go inside at that point but the tour guide told us about the experience inside and the history of the building.

After the tour it was late and we decided to wander back to the hotel area. After a couple of beers I thought I wanted to stay out a little longer but after getting lost, since it was our first night in the city, we were both exhausted and just tried to find our way back.

Plus we needed rest for a long tour day the next day.

Arriving on the Rhine

After the delays at JFK we arrive in Frankfurt the next day but closer to the afternoon. While the first day is usually jet lag day, I did have hopes on getting in some adventure that day. A train is the way to go from the Frankfurt airport to the town we booked for the next couple days, Bacharach. I had done some train schedule research but due to our delay we missed the train I wanted to catch. Europe is pretty easy to get around but it is never simple the first couple times you try to figure out the trains. After maybe missing one more train, we finally figure out the ticket purchase booth (Hint: It needs a chip card with a PIN number – that excludes my regular credit card since I never get pins for my traditional credit cards).

The pension was going to pick us up at the train station but due to our late arrival I decided it was too much trouble to try to coordinate the pickup. Pension “Im Malerwinkel” wasn’t too far uphill from the train. After a tiny bit of map confusion we found our cute German home for the next couple days.

We took some time to decompress and then decided to go out and get trail information for the next day and get some bottle waters (since we are always of need of water). We soon find out that this cute town has closing hours and they are at 5-6 pm. Pretty much every store, tourist office, and miscellaneous place is closed by that time. No waters for us! We force ourselves into the tourist office just as it was closing and we didn’t find very helpful service. We decide to let the lady leave and try again the next morning. Fortunately our hotel had a honor bar where we could purchase waters, sodas, wines and beers. We took advantage of that amenity during our stay!

Fortunately the restaurants are open past 6, but don’t remain open too late. We decide to do the fancy dinner the first night since you never know how busy and tired the following evenings will be. I picked the fish menu. It started with a trout consommé  soup, followed by a almond crusted trout and finished with a dessert. I was pretty pleased with the first night’s dinner at the Rhein hotel’s Stueber’s Restaurant.

We wandered around the town a bit more because even though it was close to 10 pm and the town was almost a ghost town, it was still so damn light out. Ultimately sleep won against the light and I chose to wind down the night with a view outside our window with a bottle of wine from our hotel honor bar. Time to get a good night’s sleep for some hiking and sightseeing the next day.