Bill and Sue-On Hillman: A 50-Year Musical Odyssey


After a bit of a wait at the Ventiane Airport we boarded the Lao Airlines jetliner at 2:30 for the hour-long flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. Once we got off the ground, the stewardesses in lovely blue uniforms served lunch -- a box with a sandwich cut into three triangles: cheese, tuna, and chicken, and a little cup of OJ. Quite refreshing actually. We landed at the newly-built Hanoi Airport, financed by China and opened in time for Chinese New Year. Quite impressive. This is one of two airports in the city. 

Our driver met us at the airport after we collected our luggage and exchanged our Amerian dollars for "dongs" -- 1 USD is = to 21, 000 dongs! SO confusing with all the zeros! Bill got 2,000,000.00 dongs for $100 USD and Sue-On got 1,060,000 for $50.00. Never felt so rich ;-)

Once out of the airport building, our driver led us to our bus where we had to pass our luggage through a window at the back of the bus for storage! As we started off, we could already see the immense difference in this country from the private homes that may be five stories high for a family, to mega buildings as hotels. Houses are VERY close together. If they are separated by a space wider than a specific number of meters, the owners have to pay a special tax. There is an attempt to limit urban sprawl since wherever possible the land is preserved for agriculture. 

Before we got to the city proper, there were many uniquely Vietnamese houses, not quite as garish as in Laos and Thailand. There was a lot of market gardening and we saw women with their cone-shaped straw hats working in the plots. The highway from the airport was very modern and divided by a lovely manicured boulevard, maintained by an army of squatting women who were planting, pulling weeds or using long bamboo strip rakes. As we got closer to the city the buildings were even closer together and so were the people!

Hanoi, a city of 4 million is Vietnamís capital and lies in the North of the country. The city has much to offer the tourist: modern high rise buildings, French-colonial and traditional architecture, a rich food culture and a long history (the city celebrated its millennium in 2010.) We were headed for our hotel in the Hoan Kiem District (aka the Old Quarter) which is considered the cityís business hub and main tourist destination.  One thing we noticed about many of the tall houses in the city was that they had no ordinary doors, rather the entire width of the street frontage was open for business activities. A large overhead door could be pulled down for security. The rest of the building was living quarters. 

Leaving Ventiane Airport

Flying Over Vietnam and Hanoi

Hanoi Skyline and Noi Bai International Airport

Taking the Freeway from Hanoi Aiport to the Downtown Old Quarter

Entering Hanoi

Hotel Busboys meet our bus on a main street
Pushing Sue-On's blue backpack through the bus window

Making our way through a crowded Old Quarter street on our way to the hotel




Copyright 2015
Bill and Sue-On Hillman