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Hanoi and Hong Kong via QR and KA J featuring a Presidential Suite and CX F lounges

Hanoi and Hong Kong via QR and KA J featuring a Presidential Suite and CX F lounges

Old Jan 24, 20, 6:35 am
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Hanoi and Hong Kong via QR and KA J featuring a Presidential Suite and CX F lounges

Hanoi and Hong Kong via QR and KA J featuring a Presidential Suite and CX First Class lounges

Index to Genius1 Trip Reports

I had always been curious about Vietnam given its prominent place in military history of recent times. In choosing where in the country to visit for a relatively short first-time trip, the capital of Hanoi in the North seemed an appropriate location to start, particularly given its proximity to Hong Kong which would also feature on this tripís itinerary. I should note that travel took place in May 2019, before the large-scale and ongoing unrest in Hong Kong commenced the following month.

Highlights ahead in this report:
  • Four sectors in Qatar Airways Business Class, featuring three different products, including Qsuite on the 77W
  • Staying in the Presidential Suite at the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake, including the Club InterContinental experience
  • Cathay Dragon Business Class on the A321
  • The Club InterContinental experience at InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong
  • Full reviews of the Cathay Pacific The Wing and The Pier First Class lounges at HKG

Radisson Blu Stockholm-Arlanda Airport Hotel

With our positioning flight on BA arriving into Stockholm mid-morning and QR check-in desks not opening until mid-afternoon, I had reserved a day room at the Radisson Blu, conveniently located within the SkyCity building connecting Terminals 4 and 5. The walk to SkyCity from T2 (home to BA) is fairly long at around ten minutes and involves multiple level changes, although is fully protected from the elements. The SkyCity also offers the advantage of being fairly close to T5 (roughly four minutesí walk away), from where our QR flight would depart later that afternoon.

Check-in was swift in a contemporary lobby area, but thatís where the 21st century ended as we were directed to the right and then around a curved corridor to the left. Our Standard Room was small (to be expected) with no view to speak of other than a semi-enclosed roof, and boasted interior design straight out of the 1990s, including oppressive yellow-painted walls, yellow curtains and a utilitarian marble-clad bathroom. A browse of the hotelís website suggests that Superior rooms and above have been recently refurbished in a much more contemporary style Ė these would be my pick on any future stay.

Three particularly bizarre elements of the room baffled me; the bottle-opener was screwed to the bathroom wall (rather than being in the vicinity of the mini-bar as you would expect), the TV was partially positioned over the connecting door to the adjacent room rendering the door unusable, and the bedroom featured a retro uncovered strip light (presumably an emergency light of some sort) above the air conditioning vent. Note that in keeping with most Radisson Blu properties, there are no slippers, bathrobes, coffee machine or complimentary water in Standard rooms. I didnít use the shower in order to be able to determine whether the mirror was anti-steam, but I doubt it was.

This trademark Genius1 interrogation aside, our room performed satisfactorily for the purposes of offering a few hoursí rest between flights; it was clean enough, there were both power and USB sockets adjacent to the bed, and the complimentary wifi worked well.


Shortly after booking the Qatar Airways flights in March I was advised that a credit card security check was required (presumably due to the fact Iíd booked the tickets whilst on a hotelís wifi network with an IP address registered in a country that didnít match my credit card address). Having failed to do this via QRís incompetent telephone and email customer service teams, I was prompted to do this in person at QRís ticket desk, located directly opposite their check-in desks at ARN T5. Verification formalities complete, it was back over to the Business Class check-in desk where there was a short wait for boarding passes to be issued and bags tagged as oneworld Business Class priority, and another short queue at Fast Track security.

QR were using a different pier (Gates 11-24) to the usual F Gates pier at T5 that afternoon due to what appeared to be taxiway reconstruction work, resulting in a trip to a new lounge Ė the wholly unremarkable third party Norrsken lounge, operated by Menzies. This is a significant downgrade over the usual Stockholm Arlanda lounge (also operated by Menzies) on the F Gates pier, which I most recently reviewed in my Singapore 2018 trip report.

Located adjacent to the SAS lounges one level up from gate level, the Norrsken lounge is one of the smaller airport lounges Iíve visited and offers basic interior design with amenities and cleaning standards to match.

The principal part of the lounge beyond reception features banquette and table seating along the left-hand wall, with additional seating both the other side of, and at, the semi-circular low dividing Ďfeatureí wall.

This feature wall wraps around the self-serve buffet and bar area, where a paltry and unappetising selection of mainly cold items could be found. At the far end of the lounge is a part-enclosed meeting room which doubles as additional table seating.

To the right of reception is a small high-top table and stool seating area which looks like itís designed for short dwell times such as phone calls, beyond which is a sparse news stand integrated into the wall.

The far corner of the lounge offers a small soft seating area and apron views (including our 787 in the distance), although its small size and location opposite the washrooms means itís not the most pleasant of spaces in which to wait for a flight. The view of the apron was made a little more interesting than usual by the variety of livery-less aircraft painted solely in white making their way back and forth, presumably wet-leased to cover for grounded 737 MAX aircraft.

Boarding from Gate 18 in the Non-Schengen part of the pier commenced shortly after our arrival at the gate, where there was a priority lane for the boarding pass and passport check and a signed (but not segregated) seating area. Business Class passengers were called second to board after those passengers needing additional time.

A single airbridge led from the building to Door 2L of A7-BCU, a four-year-old 787-8 featuring the excellent Collins Aerospace Super Diamond product in Business Class. I reviewed this seat (which also features on QRís A380 fleet and non-Qsuite A350s) in detail in my Singapore 2018 trip report, so will focus on the soft product in this report. I will however note that QR are to be commended for specifying individual air vents across their 787 fleet.

After successfully navigating to Seat 3A in this small five-row cabin (six if you include the oddly located 6EF between the two washrooms aft of Doors 2), I was approached by a member of the cabin crew who welcomed me and offered a drink along with a choice of hot or cold towel. Jackets were taken on request, and seat tours were offered for those unfamiliar with the product.

As I waited for my QR signature drink of mint and lime to arrive, I looked around the spacious seat where a blanket and pillow had been pre-placed before boarding, with a bottle of Aqua díOr water in the bottle holder, noise-cancelling headphones in the armrest and amenity kit on the side ledge. Whilst the contents of the amenity kit, including Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio products, was identical to many recent QR flights, the Bricís bag in which they came was a new variant to me Ė a leather-effect (and slightly cheap-looking) semi-hard black plastic with red detailing. The socks, eye mask and ear bud case were black to match. QR havenít changed their amenity kit contents for some time, and although the bags are rotated quite regularly, Iíd like to see some different toiletries make an appearance soon.

PJs, slippers and mattress pads are not available on day flights, although dental and shaving kits as well as Rituals hand wash, moisturiser and body mist/spray are available in the washrooms. As Iíve mentioned before, Iíd like to see QR make slippers available on day flights and would also appreciate a pen to be included in the amenity kit for completing landing cards where required.

A relatively short flight time of 5h46 was announced by the flight crew, with our cruising altitude for the evening being 39,000ft. A selection of newspapers was offered to complement the magazines available in the Doors 2 entryway, and new, smaller format menus and wine lists were distributed before pushback Ė a much handier size for storing around the seat (and for taking home for those of us with a trip report to write!). With the exception of the dessert wine, the wine list remained the same for all four QR sectors of this trip.

A little under an hour after boarding, dinner service commenced with a glass of the Lallier Grande Rťserve and a ramekin of warm mixed nuts.

After a welcome from the CSD, the usual table-laying process commenced swiftly, including laying of the tablecloth, placement of the bread plate (more of a tray really), butter, oil with accompanying dish, smart QR-branded salt and pepper cellars, metal breadbasket (containing three different rolls), and artificial candle. A red water glass was also placed on the table with an offer of still or sparkling mineral water; Iím not a huge fan of these glasses as they feel quite rough to hold and drink out of, in contrast to the rest of the table and glassware.

A very pleasant amuse-bouche of pickled salmon was offered first, swiftly followed by the salty but enjoyable creamy green pea soup with asparagus and roasted buckwheat. The Matanzas Creek Winery Chardonnay was a suitable accompaniment.

The superbly presented poached scallops and apple vinaigrette with mussel dill mayonnaise, shrimps and rye bread crumble tasted just as good as it looked.

For my main course Iíd chosen the herb crusted salmon fillet served with baked potatoes, grilled mini fennel, baby courgettes and light marinara sauce. The relish accompanying this dish was quite spicy, although the dish was hearty and nicely presented.

The warm chocolate and cherry tart with mascarpone cream and pistachio tuile was excellent, although the heat (perhaps slightly hotter than Ďwarmí) had caused the tart to partially collapse by the time it came for me to take a photo. This dessert was certainly the better choice of the two listed on the menu Ė the alternative of fresh berries with mint syrup is really basic and the syrups (the exact flavour varies by flight) are usually sickly sweet.

My oolong tea was accompanied by a box of Godiva chocolates and a hot towel to complete the dinner service.

During the meal service I watched the entertaining and musically triumphant A Star is Born (who knew that Lady Gaga would turn out to be such a good actor Ė or that I would ever reference Lady Gaga in one of my trip reports?). Annoyingly I had to use QRís supplied headphones instead of my usual pair of Bose QC 35 II headphones as the sound was way too loud during the film and couldnít be adjusted properly; I originally thought this was due to an issue with the film, the IFE system at that particular seat, or potentially a wider IFE problem on the aircraft, but have since concluded I need to purchase a new adapter for my Bose headphones to be able to use them on certain aircraft.

The Oryx One IFE system fitted to QRís 787s is fairly buggy, on screens that are noticeably chunkier and slower to respond than on A350 aircraft equipped with the same seat. The system also lacks external cameras, and annoyingly doesnít automatically turn screens off when not in use causing a significant amount of light pollution; this is particularly noticeable in a half-empty cabin. My final IFE-related observation is that the positioning of the handheld IFE controller means it is often inadvertently operated by an elbow on the armrest, although this is admittedly a seat design fault rather than an IFE failing.

After a brief doze, I requested a mint tea which as usual was brought on a tray accompanied by a selection of packaged biscuits.

A third and final hot towel was offered at the top of descent, with jackets handed back before the cabin crew were asked to take their seats for landing; I prefer jackets to be handed back on the ground, although can appreciate that there might be limited time to do this in some situations.

In a typical arrival onto a remote stand at Doha, we disembarked from Door 2L (with Economy Class passengers being held back by closed curtains and crew standing in the aisles) and were soon proceeding to the empty priority transfers security via a dedicated Business Class bus whose journey was perhaps just a little slower than usual due to its progress being hampered by a baggage truck.


The Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business lounge was reasonably busy at this ungodly hour of the morning, with plenty of passengers awaiting their connecting flights. I reviewed this lounge in detail in my Japan 2018 trip report, so head over there for the photo tour. We found a spot in the quiet area (home to red chairs that are more style than substance) for the 45 minutes or so that we had to wait before heading to Gate E21 via the transit train.

E21 is, of course, a bus gate where a dedicated Business Class lane was set up for the boarding pass and passport check. As is often the case at bus gates at Doha, Business Class passengers were called to board after Economy Class passengers, which meant by the time our dedicated J bus had reached the aircraft side, we had to be held on the bus for a short time whilst two buses worth of Y passengers went up the stairs before us.

This minor inconvenience and distinctly first-world problem aside, we were soon being welcomed at Door 2L of A7-AEA, a rather elderly (by QR standards) A330-300 (a change from the scheduled -200 variant), weighing in at 15 years old. Despite her age, this aircraft was in excellent condition internally and of course featured individual air vents at each seat, contrary to many more modern aircraft, as well as notably powerful overhead reading lights. QR are in the process of retiring their A330 fleet, having retired their last A340 in May 2019. The final A330 will be retired in 2022, with the fleet being replaced by the A350 and 787.

All of QRís A330s are now fitted with the Collins Aerospace Diamond seat in Business Class; note that this is a substantially different product from the excellent Super Diamond seat featured on the previous sector of this trip, being in a 2-2-2 configuration as opposed to 1-2-1. I reviewed the Diamond product in detail in my Japan 2018 trip report, so will focus once again on the soft product for this sector.

The usual pre-departure ritual of cabin crew welcome, jackets taken upon request, offer of a drink of choice and a hot or cold towel commenced as the flight crew announced a flight time to Hanoi of 7 hours. Seat 2J was set up for boarding with a pillow and blanket on the seat itself, and a rather bold red amenity kit bag placed on the small side ledge next to the hand-held IFE controller. A bottle of Evian water and QR-branded noise-cancelling headphones featured in the tiny (and inconveniently located) stowage space at shoulder height next to the headrest.

Menus, wine lists and PJ/slipper packs from The White Company were handed out soon after my mint and lime arrived, as were newspapers for those who wanted them.

The flight crew advised that there would be a short delay to pushback due to the closure of Pakistani airspace affecting flight paths in the region, but before too long we were airborne and I was changing into PJs in the spotless washroom, which unusually for an A330 features a window. There are no changing tables or seats in the washrooms on this aircraft type, which does make PJ-donning a little more awkward.

As is the norm on QR flights, the CSD came around the Business Class cabin to individually welcome each passenger, and in my case stopped to hang my clothes, query whether I would like to be woken for breakfast and take a pre-sleep drink order. With this flight departing at 02:25 Doha time, few passengers chose to partake of the Ďlate night diningí, instead opting to rest for a few hours. I was no exception to this, settling down to sleep soon after finishing my hot chocolate.

As I mentioned in my detailed review of this seat in 2018, the seat is on the narrow side for a comfortable sleep, with both head and foot room quite constrained. No mattress pads were available on this sector despite it being a night flight; Iím not sure whether theyíre ever offered on A330-operated sectors, given the second-tier cities these aircraft tend to fly to. As the cabin wasnít anywhere near full, I requisitioned a blanket from an empty seat as my mattress pad, which made for a fairly comfortable sleeping surface.

The attentive crew offered me a hot towel as I woke from my four-hour slumber, swiftly followed by a fresh orange juice and the laying of my table for breakfast, which included a basket of breakfast bakery products whose quality seems to diminish with every QR sector I fly. During the meal service I watched Oceanís 8 which was surprisingly enjoyable, even allowing for the Sandra Bullock factor.

The Greek yogurt, strawberry compote and toasted granola with nuts was average as is the norm for this dish, with the platter of seasonal cut fruits following.

For my main course Iíd chosen the chive scrambled eggs with grilled chicken breast, rosti potato, vine tomato (actually generously plural in reality when compared to the menu description) and Portobello mushroom. The eggs were a little over-done and somewhat grey-tinged from their close proximity to the mushroom, but overall this dish wasnít half bad, accompanied by an espresso.

Throughout the breakfast service one of the cabin crew members kept bumping into, and treading on top of, my feet as she leant across to serve 2K, which was mildly annoying. A mint tea concluded the breakfast service, with a basket of mints offered to each passenger as we started our descent into Hanoi.

Landing into Vietnamís capital at around 14:00 local time, just a little behind schedule, we parked at a dual-airbridge equipped stand and disembarked from Door 1L, well before the second airbridge docked at 2L. There was no queue at all at immigration, and with our bags amongst the first onto the belt were soon proceeding through customs to the arrivals hall, where we met with our representative from the InterContinental.

Last edited by Genius1; Feb 8, 20 at 7:12 am
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Old Jan 24, 20, 6:36 am
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InterContinental Hanoi Westlake and Scenes from Hanoi

I’d pre-booked the IC’s chauffeur service for the 25-minute drive from the airport; met kerbside, our wifi-enabled Mercedes E-Class was soon pulling up, stocked with mineral water and mints. We were offered cold towels by the driver and received a phone call from the hotel through the car’s Bluetooth to welcome us, confirm our preferred check-in location, and take arrival drinks orders.

The InterContinental Hanoi Westlake is one of two ICs in Vietnam’s capital; as its name suggests, it’s located on the banks of Ho Tay (or West Lake), in contrast to the skyscraper location of its sister hotel in the business district.

As we pulled up at the low-rise main building, we were greeted by a host and escorted through the lobby and along the ground floor corridor to the Club InterContinental lounge. Although not required on this trip, the lobby featured a separate Ambassador desk and seating area immediately to the left of the entrance.

Check-in formalities were completed within the lounge, accompanied by yet more cold towels and welcome drinks. The hotel’s Assistant Manager even stopped by to provide a personal welcome, which I don’t recall ever experiencing before. Combined with the chauffeur transfer, this was a very impressive arrivals experience.

Declining the offer of a buggy service to our room, we stopped off to look at the hotel’s main lounge area, before heading out along a walkway to one of three over-water pavilion buildings and our Over-Water Panoramic View room located on the ‘ground’ floor of the second pavilion building, and an upgrade from our booked Club InterContinental room in the main building.

Decorated in classic Vietnamese style in keeping with the rest of the property, the room was spacious if not overly luxurious and featured a stunning view from its suspended balcony across the lake to the city centre beyond.

Two bottles of mineral water and a small fruit ‘hat’ were placed as a welcome gift, alongside a welcome card. Interestingly, and in contrast to most other IC properties I’ve stayed in, there was no coffee machine in the room, these only being provided in selected suites. There was, however, a cafetiŤre and complimentary ground coffee available in the minibar.

Whilst there were plenty of power sockets by the desk, there were none available for use by the beds, and certainly no USB sockets. Both the bedside and over-bed lights were linked for each bed, which meant everything was quite bright and difficult to adjust to a good pre-sleep level. That being said, the bed was comfortable and provided a solid night’s sleep.

The bathroom was as spacious as the room and nicely appointed, featuring double vanities, a separate bathtub and walk-in rain shower. I particularly liked the wooden ladder-style towel rail and appreciated the thoughtful bottle nook in the shower stall. Amenities were the usual San Francisco-based Agraria products.

Considering our welcome drinks in the lounge had taken some time to enjoy, luggage delivery to the room was quite late; when it did arrive, there were limited locations to store it, with only one suitcase stand in the room (and no spares available on request). Despite this, staff were friendly and quick to respond to requests, including coming to remove a dead gecko from under the TV console.

The Club InterContinental lounge, located in the main building, is spacious and comfortably designed, featuring numerous different ‘rooms’ and seating areas to suit all occasions. To the right of reception is the large dining area, with the buffet at one end and table seating at the other, including one large dining room-style table for groups.

In the middle of the lounge, behind reception, a comfortable lounge seating area features three sofas and several armchairs, and views across the lake either side of a faux fireplace. A selection of board games and children’s toys were available here.

The left-hand portion of the lounge is split into three; a combined business centre and library, a glass-sided meeting room, and a smaller lounge seating area with low tables for two or four. The washroom is also located here, although note that unlike some other hotel lounges, there is no shower for early arrivals.

We visited the lounge that evening for drinks and canapťs (which commence at the early hour of 5pm and conclude at the equally early 7pm), where an extensive and beautifully presented buffet was available alongside waiter-served hot canapťs and drinks from a somewhat makeshift bar set up on a couple of dining tables in the corner of the dining area.

Service was polite, but a little overly reverent, with some staff members lacking in confidence. That being said, by our third evening visit, the staff had remembered our preferred drinks orders and had two Hanoi Breezes practically lined up waiting for us as we arrived.

This service pattern continued at breakfast, with friendly but slightly slow service and clearing of tables, tempered by another great buffet and a strong ŗ la carte menu that featured everything except my favourite Bircher muesli. All breakfast beverages were waiter-served, and the tables were notably well-laid.

Our first breakfast of oatmeal porridge and smoked salmon Eggs Benedict was excellent.

As novel as the over-water location of our room was, the consequential damp smell was overpowering; after one night we’d had enough and requested after breakfast the following morning to relocate to the main building. The staff in the Club lounge were happy to source an alternative room for us, and we left them to do this whilst heading out to explore Hanoi for the morning.

Our first stop was the Kim Lien Pagoda, a Buddhist temple located right next door to the InterContinental. Wandering around Ho Tay, we stopped at the picturesque Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple in the city at over 1,450 years old, before moving on to the wholly uninspiring Botanical Garden.

The One Pillar Pagoda near the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum is designed to resemble a lotus blossom, and although small, is worth a stop for its unique design.

With feet tiring, a taxi (red, white and blue livery are the ones to look out for) was hailed to take us to Dong Xuan Market; you could easily spend an hour or so getting lost amongst its wet and dry sales floors and many more hours exploring the streets of the surrounding Old Quarter, including Quan Chuong gate and Bach Ma Temple.

The Old Quarter provided some of my favourite street photography shots of this trip; I was particularly struck by how happy these workers looked, enjoying the simple pleasure of lunch in the back of a van.

Air Rarotonga and bwiadca like this.

Last edited by Genius1; Jan 30, 20 at 12:03 pm
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Old Jan 24, 20, 6:38 am
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Returning to the hotel by taxi, we stopped at reception to see which room the hotel had moved us to; the Duty Manager was summoned, and I was astounded to be told the only suitable room was the Presidential Suite! We were escorted up to the fourth floor of the main building and given a brief guided tour of our new room (number 401 in case you’re wondering), undoubtedly the largest I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in.

Our luggage and fruit ‘hat’ had been moved to our new room whilst we’d been out enjoying the city, and later that evening a bottle of wine appeared in the suite as a further (and totally unnecessary) apology for the inconvenience.

Entering through double doors, a cloakroom was to be found to the left of the entrance, with the main living room taking up almost the entire width of the building’s wing beyond.

With a large sofa and two wide armchairs, the living room also featured a sound system and expansive desk fit for a president, complete with its own guest chairs, printer and stationery.

To the right of the living room, a separate dining room offered seating for a more than adequate ten guests (which naturally had to be tried one evening with an in-room dining-ordered dessert), beyond which was the second bedroom and ensuite bathroom, almost identical in design to our previous room.

To the left of the living room, the master bedroom featured a separate lounge area with chaise lounge, feature TV and desk monolith, and an expansive bathroom with freestanding bathtub, double vanities and walk-in rain shower, all to a different, distinctly more upscale design than that featured in other rooms.

The ledge over the toilet roll holder was a particularly useful feature to balance reading material or a phone whilst, well, you can imagine. Amenities remained Agraria, although larger bottles were offered in both bathrooms and the cloakroom, with mouth wash also available in the bathrooms. I do wonder whether upgraded premium amenities would normally be offered to guests paying for the Presidential Suite. Interestingly, a premium-branded hairdryer was available in each bedroom, in contrast to the more basic affair in our previous room.

It may have been a Presidential Suite, but that’s not to say that there weren’t a few minor niggles; the same issue with harsh lighting was evident in both bedrooms, the aircon in the master bedroom was too cold and couldn’t be adjusted, there was no magnified mirror or full length mirror in the master bedroom/bathroom, and the shower in the master bathroom was more style than substance, lacking in power, with an uncomfortable slatted wooden floor and a door that only opened outwards, ruffling the admittedly thick bath mat.

No fewer than seven private balconies surround the Presidential Suite leading from the master bedroom, living room and second bedroom, with superb views across the lake, hotel grounds and surrounding neighbourhood.

As if seven balconies weren’t enough, the suite was completed with a butler’s pantry, featuring a mini kitchen and a coffee maker, which naturally featured its own service entrance from the corridor.

After freshening up in surroundings fit for a king or queen, we headed down to the lounge for afternoon tea. Served from 2pm until 4pm, afternoon tea is an entirely waiter-service affair, with a selection of sandwiches, pastries, scones and drinks served seat-side on modern tableware. I found the flavours of the pastries to be a little bland compared to the norm for afternoon tea, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as such delicacies can often be overly sweet.

That evening we dined at one of the hotel’s two restaurants, Saigon (the other being the Italian, Milan). With visible kitchens through glass, traditional Vietnamese cuisine is offered in comfortable surroundings, with views across the lake. Excellent friendly and professional service was paired with flavoursome cooking; we liked it so much that we dined here on the subsequent two nights of our stay as well.

Our second full day in Hanoi commenced with another excellent breakfast in the Club InterContinental, this time with the egg meurette as my ŗ la carte dish of choice.

We took a taxi to the National Museum of Vietnamese History; spread over two buildings separated by a death-defying road (as all roads in Vietnam are), the first building was home to the earlier history of the country whilst the second (and more interesting) was dedicated to the Vietnam War (or the American War as it is referred as in Vietnam). It was particularly interesting to learn about the history of the War from a Vietnamese perspective.

By this point we’d mastered the art of crossing the road in Hanoi; a relatively slow but steady pace (at any point) in a straight line will generally result in the numerous vehicles and many more mopeds filtering around you. Changing speed or direction mid-crossing is not recommended unless you have a particular desire to test the effectiveness of your travel insurance.

Passing the opulent Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel and Government Guest House, we emerged at the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake and the on-lake Den Ngoc Son (Temple of the Jade Mountain). St Joseph’s Cathedral is well worth a visit, as is the small Chua Ba Da temple on its approach road to the east.

Train Street, north of Hanoi Railway Station, was sadly devoid of trains the day of our visit, but the architecture and bustle of the street made for no less of an interesting stroll along the track. We would be lucky enough to see a train making its way through the narrow street at a different location to the south of the station in a couple of days’ time.

Our third day in Vietnam’s capital started, oddly enough, with the Japanese Breakfast option from the Club lounge’s ŗ la carte menu, before we headed out via taxi to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

It’s important to realise that the interior of the Mausoleum operates with restricted opening hours, and there are strict rules prohibiting photography within the vicinity of the imposing structure. The queue post-security was fairly fast-moving, and before long we were filing past Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body in respectful silence, all the while being watched by an imposing military honour guard.

Ho Chi Min’s Stilt House is a relatively humble piece of architecture, in contrast to the austere grey granite of his Mausoleum; after seeing his home, you can’t help but wonder whether he would really want such an imposing tomb as his final resting place.

The Temple of Literature, with its five courtyards, presents a quiet sanctuary in an otherwise hectic city.

The nearby Imperial Citadel of Thang Long includes the historic former headquarters of the People’s Army of Vietnam within the D67 Tunnel and House.

That afternoon, we visited the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre for a traditional show; interesting for the first five minutes, and tolerable for ten, the rest of the show (all seventeen scenes of it) can perhaps kindly be called ‘an experience’.

A gift of a stuffed gecko was waiting for us on return to our suite; a little too close to the real thing for my liking, I left this in the suite for it to be recycled for the next guest!

A simple omelette started our fourth and final day exploring Hanoi before that evening’s flight to Hong Kong.

Sometimes the best things are saved until last, and this visit to Vietnam was no different; our second visit to Train Street, this time to the south of the station, heralded only a half hour wait for the next train – and what an experience it was. Standing in the narrow strip of the ‘safe zone’, the train thundered past at a surprisingly swift pace – no wonder the local residents have to help some tourists understand the importance of remaining as close as possible to the buildings on either side of the tracks.

A brief stop at the unremarkable Hanoi Railway Station seemed almost obligatory after our Train Street experience, from where we walked to the small but educational Hanoi Police Museum and on to the infamous Hoa Lo Prison Museum, home to John McCain during its ‘Hanoi Hilton’ days.

Back at the InterContinental, I was pleased to see that our suite had been refreshed by housekeeping despite today being the day of departure; this is always the mark of a property on the ball. Checkout took place seat-side in the Club InterContinental lounge, accompanied by afternoon tea. The lounge manager thanked us as we left the lounge and gave us a parting gift of two small bottles of wine, thoughtfully plastic so as to be easily packed in suitcases.

Heading to a taxi, I reflected on what a great experience the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake had provided in truly unique surroundings, and what a fascinating city Hanoi is. I will definitely return to Vietnam to explore more of this picturesque and historic country in the future.

Scroll down for the second half of this trip report...

Last edited by Genius1; Jan 29, 20 at 4:09 pm
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Old Jan 24, 20, 8:25 am
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They are sweet litle harmeless things that eat bugs!
Get a gecko in your room and you are mossie free!
Man, you need to learn about travel: you might fly First and Business but geckos's are your friends.

Last edited by 737Av8tor; Jan 24, 20 at 8:36 am Reason: Spelling
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Old Jan 24, 20, 8:36 am
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Originally Posted by 737Av8tor View Post
geckos's are your firends.
I find geckos pretty scary, so they're definitely not my friends.

Last edited by Genius1; Jan 28, 20 at 1:10 pm
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Old Jan 24, 20, 8:42 am
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Scary? Geckos?

Do not EVER do that again: they are completely harmless and will eat the bugs that want to bite you.

In the military I lived in some sparse accom: a gecko in the room was a bonus.

I've had them running over me in the middle of the night eating mossies.

Last edited by Madone59; Jan 24, 20 at 10:31 am Reason: Edited to remove personal attack
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Old Jan 24, 20, 9:14 am
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The IC looks nice, the upgrade was of course quite luck
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Old Jan 24, 20, 9:40 am
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Originally Posted by 737Av8tor View Post
Scary? Geckos?
We all have different perspectives on things. Something that scares me may well of course be your favourite thing, but thatís not for me to judge.
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Old Jan 24, 20, 3:50 pm
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Originally Posted by Genius1 View Post
We all have different perspectives on things. Something that scares me may well of course be your favourite thing, but thatís not for me to judge.
It's like spiders. Totally harmless, but some have problems with it. I have also my specialities. I once had a poor Gecko in my bag which travelled with me from Seychelles to Dubai.
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Old Jan 24, 20, 8:15 pm
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You went to Hanoi and exclusively ate in the hotel restaurants? Am I reading that right?

If so you missed the best of Hanoi...
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Old Jan 25, 20, 12:41 am
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Originally Posted by Reidos View Post
You went to Hanoi and exclusively ate in the hotel restaurants? Am I reading that right?

If so you missed the best of Hanoi...
The Vietnamese Restaurant at the IC Westlake is amazing, but i do agree with you that street food in Hanoi is amazing. I did a wonderful street food tour coupled with sight seeing, which was awesome
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Old Jan 25, 20, 2:02 am
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Amazing trip report.
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Old Jan 25, 20, 7:55 am
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What did the city smell like?
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Old Jan 25, 20, 12:56 pm
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Most enlightening report. Planning a trip to Vietnam in March/April (coronavirus permitting) to include new F1 GP. Your report on Hanoi where we'll spend about 8 - 9 days was way better and more interesting than anything I've found so far on search engine. Many thanks.
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Old Jan 25, 20, 1:23 pm
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The Presidential Suite was a real sweet deal!

That train street was something else. Great insane fun to stand inches from a roaring train!

Great report so far. Thanks for sharing.
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