Douglas Thompson's Gay Asia Blog

1 November 2006

This Blog is Born

Our Web Guru told us that we would have higher search engine rankings if we added a blog to our website. Honestly, I was not 100% sure what a blog was. And now I have one!

Just returned from our annual company trip. Last year's trip was to Siem Reap. We had about twenty members of our "family" from Thailand, Vietnam and China. This year we spent five days in Hanoi and Halong Bay. For almost everyone it was a first-time experience in Vietnam. Even though I have traveled to Vietnam more than ninety times, I had not been there for almost three years. (I was in a wheel chair for a year, during which I had some major orthopedic surgery, and later burdened with business problems some of you know about). This time there were fourteen of us from Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Returning to Hanoi was really exciting. While most Asian cities have become homogenized with time, Hanoi still retains the special character that makes it what some consider the most beautiful city in Asia. One notable change since my first visit there more than ten years ago is the traffic. A decade ago, the streets were filled with bicycles and cyclos (three-wheeled, human-powered pedicabs) and a few worn-out Chinese automobiles. Then came the motorbikes, which have since given away to cars. You would have to be out of your mind to ride a bicycle nowadays. And the cyclos are restricted to a shrinking number of streets. It is hard to believe that this colorful vehicle, practically the symbol of Hanoi, may be forced off the road for good some day.

Hanoi is still a great place to shop. I made a valiant attempt to add a water puppet to my large collection, but found that I had virtually every character in the show. (But why can't I find the ducks?) You can find plenty of lacquer and silk. I brought home a dozen cheap bia hoi (fresh beer) glasses. At the airport I picked up a bottle of Yalumba Eden Valley Wild Fermented Chardonnay 2003, just because I liked the look of the label. It turned out to be one of the most outstanding wines I have every enjoyed. If you see a bottle, grab one for yourself (and one for me!). I can't find it in Thailand or Cambodia. It may be worth a trip back just to Hanoi just shop at Duty Free.

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