Not that I’m counting, but this may be the longest day of my life. After breakfast we set out under gray skies to an unforgettable history lecture by Huu Ngoc, a retired journalist in his nineties with a decidedly long view of Vietnam’s place in world history. It was an insightful and intense hour or so. His book Wandering Through Vietnamese Culture is a delightful collection of decades of his newspaper columns on different facets of local lore. Fascinating!
Lunch was at a local establishment that serves as a center for training and employment of disadvantaged youth. The restaurant is located in a classic Hanoi “tube house”: very skinny, narrow and deep, and several stories tall.
Then off to the ancient Buddhist temple and school, where the Confucian scholars took their exams and gained the license to serve in government.
Finally back to our hotel to change and pack and load up. Our flight out of Hanoi left at 11:30pm Hanoi time, and arrived in Seoul at 5:30 am Seoul time. We faced a 13-hour layover, and Asiana Airlines had just the (no-cost) thing. Two things, actually, so we had to choose. One could have a hotel room. Or one could get a tour of Seoul. Having not seen Seoul before, I chose that option – and two others did as well. It was a glorious sunny day. We had a nice breakfast and then mustered for our bus. The plan included four stops: a centrally located Buddhist temple, the presidential palace, lunch, and a shopping street. So it was nice that they didn’t try to cram everything into our time; the stops were well chosen and well paced. Lunch was bulgoki, a well known Korean dish. So it was altogether a very nice sampling of the city and the culture. We arrived back at the airport mid-afternoon, along with the hotel-choosers, and had time for a (free) shower, and a (free) nap in a Quiet Zone. Our outbound flight left at 6:30pm from Seoul and arrived on schedule in Seattle around noon. This was my first trip on Asiana Airlines, and I must say the service was excellent all around. I would certainly fly them again.
Friends met us at the airport, and even more were at Grace to welcome us home. It was a great trip! So many insights and wonderful experiences and new friends. I look forward to returning to Vietnam and contributing to PeaceTrees’ work there.