And as it turns out this post is just going to be a list of things of what we ate, saw and did in our very first trip in 8 years without the kids.
Accommodation: Hotel de l'opera, 29 trang tien st. We got a great deal- 3 nights for the price of 2. One of the top hotels here. Luxurious boutique hotel, loccitane toiletries, spacious suite, centrally located in the French Quarter.
Day 1: 12 June
We explore the old quarter- a labyrinth of merchant streets with a 1000 year history. Each selling wares according to street name. Buy hand carved stamps for the girls and get our family name personally engraved, then a foot massage for $20. Dinner at Little Hanoi, disappointing recommendation by Lonely Planet. Basic local stir- fried dishes. Not a great introduction to the authentic Vietnamese food I was hoping to find.
Day 2: 13 June
3.5 hour drive to Halong Bay and back again. 7 hours in the bus for a cruise through limestone outcrops in the sea. Beautiful scenery. Lunch in our cruise boat (Lotus Cruises) , unexpected kayaking into lagoons, a walk through a limestone cave. Our guide recommends an over night stay next time.
Day 3: 14 June
We explore the French Quarter, wowed by the lovely French architecture and town houses left behind by not so lovely French colonialists , walk to St Joseph's Church, another massage. Lunch at Madam Hien's - delicious Vietnamese food in an old colonial house. Wander through more streets, taxi to the Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum complex. A brutalist 1970s shrine to the ex president whom the Vietnamese regard as a godlike figure. The most well-maintained part of Vietnam with it's trimmed lawns and manicured landscaping. Ironically, Ho's mausoleum now looks into a new mall development directly opposite.