Hanoi – Shining Ritual

Hanoi – Shining Ritual

I do love a bit of tradition, especially tradition that has a gentle message. Recently while staying at the elegant Metropole Hanoi hotel (Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi), just strolling through the corridors of the original building (built in 1901 by the French colonists) you can see and feel the essence of Indochine and hope to understand this (first) luxury hotel built in the city.

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The hotel has a few famous ghosts that shuffle through the corridors when the lights go off and guests are tucked between their immaculate cotton bed linen. Rich dark brown timbers creak mildly underfoot in the rooms and the walls wear the patina of stories told and sold.

Author of many fine books, Graham Greene including The Quiet American spent time here (Suite 228)working on his books and watching the last days of the decline of French colonisation and CIA intrigue. This book and the film has endured and like the French (here from 1887-1954) has left its mark on Hanoi.

The hotel has also outlived its original owners, the colonisers, the CIA, the Japanese, the Chinese, Americans, Australians and all others who came to snatch a slice of Vietnam.

The Metropole Hanoi is a much-loved hotel and I met a man who had been staying here annually since the early 80s. He recalled then that there was a food shortage, and the staff of the hotel were too shy (call that scared) to talk to guests because of the culture of spies that flitted in and out of the shadows as Vietnam began to consolidate as a communist country after a bloody and bitter conflict that lasted from 1955-1975.

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There’s a short tour to be had at the hotel where much of the past is recorded in panels. There’s the famous image of Jane Fonda and her visit here with an anti-war message and also Joan Baez stayed here and was present during a hideously long bombing raid across Hanoi over Christmas in 1972. The United States Airforce unleashed Operation Linebacker II, its most intensive bombing campaign since WWII.

Baez and the hotel staff spent 11 nights of the bombardment in an underground bunker crammed with 40 people.

This small network of cells (below) is under the hotel’s back courtyard and was only unearthed during renovations in 2011. Now there’s a new and sad tradition that invited guest into the bunkers narrow rooms where they listen to a crackly, fuzzy tape recording of the bombing and the screams of a mother calling for her son.

Baez based her famous anti-war song Where Are You Now My Son on this incident and partly recorded it in the shelter. The music is punctuated by the thumps of bombs hitting the ground.

Vietnam has weathered many a squall and indeed centuries of storms – and lives and thrives to move on.

The Metropole Hanoi has withstood much and has kept its sense of style, its good manners, and is a shining example of what true hospitality is.

The Shining Ritual

And talking of shining, one of the charming traditions carried out every day at the hotel is the Shining Ritual.

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The Shining Ritual indicates Sofitel’s refinement and unveils the secret of excellence through recurrent cleaning and polishing of the Sofitel Legend nameplate located at the hotel entrance.

Every day, hotel staff perform the Shining ritual using a red velvet towel and green tea to clean the brass plate and the bronze gong. In the past, only Royal families had access to velvet, a material symbolising luxury, elegance, quality and beauty. Red is the colour of luck, happiness and success. Green tea, besides having healthy benefits is also a cleaning agent in Vietnamese households.

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The Gong, a musical instrument used by most highland ethnic groups in Vietnam, is believed to link people to the spiritual world and is also representative of Vietnam culture as a whole.

Writer Bev Malzard, stayed two nights in the divine Metropole, enjoyed a feast of a breakfast and an afternoon tea to write home about – which she will do as soon as she has shed the three kilos that curiously attached to her body after a three-hour High Tea. Mon dieu!

He insisted he was the most handsome of the two? You choose. I know I made my choice.

 

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Instagram’s most popular KIWI destination

This was first published in 2016 – do you think the locations for Best Instagram taking are still as popular – or have new places stepped up to be ‘social’ stars?

Waiheke Island is Instagram’s most popular Kiwi destination 

Instagram has named New Zealand’s top ten visitor attractions for 2015, based on the number of images geo-tagged to specific locations. Kiwis and international visitors shared the most pictures fromWaiheke Island. Worldwide, some 80 million images are posted to Instagram every day, making the platform a huge canvas for New Zealand.
Tourism New Zealand General Manager, Australia Tony Saunders said New Zealand scenery is unparalleled so travellers love to capture the spectacular surroundings and share it with their friends and family on social media.
“Thousands of Australians head over to Waiheke Island each year to view beautiful vineyards, olive groves and beaches so we weren’t surprised to see it named the most Instagrammed spot in New Zealand.

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“We get a huge amount of people sharing their photos of Waiheke Island and the rest of the country via @purenewzealand and the hashtag #NZMustDo.  We love that travellers want to share their journey and the stunning landscapes.”

Instagram’s top ten are:

  1. Waiheke Island
  1. Mount Maunganui (@infarawayland)

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  1. Hobbiton Movie Set

 

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  1. Sky Tower
  2.      Lake Tekapo (@danielmurray.nz)
  3.     Piha Beach
  4.  Wanaka Lake Front
  5.  Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 
  6. Skyline Queenstown

Writer, Bev Malzard visited Hobbiton in August 2017 – and soooooo loved the whole concept of this magical place and she actually did see and meet a couple of Hobbits there – true – cross my heart.

The pioneer of Aussie outdoor clothes – or looking good while bushwalking

The pioneer of Aussie outdoor clothes – or looking good while bushwalking

Paddy Pallin – the pioneer

“In my early 20s, I purchased my first oilskin jacket, sleeping bag, ground sheet and backpack from the Paddy Pallin store in Sydney – what great gear it was for us young bushwalkers. Paddy was a legend even then, and his exploits were told around campfires in the bush. it’s nice to read this (below) and remember those wonderful days trudging through remote areas of Australia and having a good tent, oilskin and groundsheet that I could trust.” – Travelgaltravels author

From ground sheets made out of his mother’s oilskin tablecloth to establishing one of Australia’s first and number one adventure wear stores, Frank ‘Paddy’ Pallin pioneered the way for outdoor exploring within the country.

Moving from the UK to Australia in the late 1920s, Frank Pallin – affectionately known to friends as ‘Paddy’ – used every spare moment out of his insurance job to head outdoors and explore New South Wales. It was only fitting, then, a series of events and interests following his redundancy in 1930 led to him sewing water buckets and ground sheets, which he later sold to bushwalkers. These were the first steps toward the 13 current Paddy Pallin Outdoor Camping, Equipment and Clothing Stores.
Immersed in the outdoor adventure culture, Paddy Pallin would spend every opportunity right up to his old age exploring the country. In the early years of business, Paddy, his business associate Oliver and son Rob were making their own products under the Paddy Pallin name. As new technologies such as Gore-Tex came into production, the equipment reached new capabilities, which excited Paddy who was fascinated with the thrill of making materials and adventure wear items more durable, reliable and lightweight so the overall experience of the adventurist was improved.
“Paddy (the man) always wanted to get people out walking and that included people who had never tried it before and wanted to give it a go,” says Tim Pallin, managing director of Paddy Pallin stores. “He was very supportive of people right at the beginning of their bushwalking careers and I hope Paddy Pallin, the company, still inspires that today in encouraging more people to get out and appreciate the Australian wilderness and explore.”
Paddy Pallin started in a one-floor building in George Street in Sydney before opening in Katoomba, Jindabyne, Canberra, Melbourne and later, Launceston, which became the first franchised location. Currently there are 13 Paddy Pallin stores throughout the country.
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In the 1930s and 1940s, Paddy’s personal expeditions led the way to discoveries of popular walking tracks that are still used today, such as Point Possibility in Morton National Park.

When Paddy’s interest in skiing grew in 1955, so did the Paddy Pallin business. Equipment stocked in Paddy Pallin stores began to showcase some of the newest and best materials for skiing alongside their rapidly growing adventure wear ranges. Initiatives such as the Paddy Pallin Cross-Country Ski Classic and the Paddy Pallin Rogaine orientation program further showcase Paddy’s love for outdoor adventure and youth education.
At the heart of everything Paddy Pallin does is the ethos that the environment and its ecosystems are there to be enjoyed as well as protected. Throughout its 83-year history, Paddy Pallin has sponsored or initiated a large range of protection and education programs in Australia, such as the Paddy Pallin Science Grants, Private Lands Conservation Grants, Humane Society International Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, and more.
Most of the funds for those initiatives come from the Paddy Pallin Foundation, says Tim: “One of our favourite initiatives is the ‘Don’t Bag The Environment’ program where if a customer doesn’t take a bag for their purchases in store, we put some money aside, which builds up and then we put that into the Paddy Pallin Foundation to go toward all of our activities.”
Today, the Paddy Pallin business continues to be family run with grandson Tim Pallin as Managing Director, son Rob Pallin sitting in the Chairman seat and daughter-in-law Nancy Pallin as director of the company.

Writer, Bev Malzard has wonderful memories of her early bushwalking days; flooded creeks late at night; bivouac experiences in remote bush areas; a snake or two to step over; great food cooked over an open fire; icy cold sips at a fresh mountain stream; gourmet cook-offs with mates when they all carried the surprise ingredients on their back to caves, riverbanks and lonely bush patches . . .lots of fun, plus the odd hangover (she stoically carried a flagon of port in her backpack once). And as you can see by these old pics, we were often a ragged bunch, often -but always at one with nature!

0You always need a good, soft vessel to carry your wine in while trudging through the bush. The smoke in my right hand shows how fit and strong we were then (don’t judge me!). That was a big walk down the Nattai River in NSW.