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Northward Ho!  (No pun intended.)

October 27.  After breakfast, we are driven to the airport for our 10:30 flight to Hanoi, passing kids posing for a school picture and viewing many typical motorbike/shop street scenes. 

Clearly, we are becoming accustomed to even higher levels of being spoiled. It used to be that, for a short flight, we’d eschew business class, suck it up and fly coach to save some money. Increasingly, though, I’m feeling that business class is worth it just for the short check-in lines, access to the business lounge prior to the flight and much easier boarding. Yes, disgusting, I know. 

 The flight is a bit over an hour and upon arrival in Hanoi, we are met by our guide, Hoan (yes, same name is our Saigon guide and pronounced “Juan”), a completely charming 34-year old artist, who guides for four months a year.  She also does modern choreography and dance.  She showed us a short video of one of her dances and a photo of one of her paintings, both of which were terrific.  We are already talking about adopting Hoan and taking her home with us.

Hoan takes us to the beautiful Sofitel Metropole Hotel, considered to be the finest in Hanoi.  
After checking in and having a good lunch in the hotel restaurant, we taxi to the 54 Traditions Gallery and meet Mark Rappaport, an American and the owner of the gallery, who spends an hour and a half showing us around the five floors of his amazing collection of all types of tribal art from the Central Highlands.  Mark is extremely knowledgeable and anxious to talk about his collection.

Mark is originally from New York and served as a doctor in the war in Vietnam. He and his wife, Jane, originally from Ohio, decided to make their lives here and have lived in Hanoi for 25 years.  He owns one of the finest authentic galleries in Hanoi and we were introduced to him by our travel agent, Jean.

We taxi through heavy traffic to have dinner with Mark and his wife, Jane, at their favorite Hanoi restaurant, Don’s.  

Don is from Montreal and is a friend of Mark and Jane’s.  Dinner is delicious and we have a wide-ranging discussion with Mark and Jane, who love Hanoi and have written a small book called 101 REASONS TO LOVE LIVING IN HANOI, which they gave us a copy of.  Jane did graduate work at the University of Chicago in political science and worked in the areas of womens rights and in environmental protection, for which she was honored with the highest civilian award in Vietnam.

After returning to the hotel, Carol and I walk a few blocks to experience the lively night life, which features music, dance and strolling, much of it done by families with small children.  It is, after all, Friday night.

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Hard to believe that our trip is more than half over. But it is.

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