Published: July 24th 2012July 22nd 2012
Nate and I left the glorious lands of Laos for Vietnam a few days ago. Laos was so relaxing and slow paced, there was barely any honking and cars did not try to run you off the road, everyone smiled patiently and took turns with things. Needless to say we were definitely on Lao time when we arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam. Immediately we were shaken up. There was honking everywhere we turned, people were constantly trying to hustle us, we got ripped off at currency exchange and our hostel was bustling with British bros. Hanoi is not a bad city but we were on such a different wave length that everything seemed so shocking and foreign to us to the point where we were overwhelmed. I can see why people fall in love with the country and don't want to ever return to the city once they have settled down. Thankfully we had a plan for Hanoi. We were only going to be in town for two nights and wanted to spend the whole next day at Halong Bay, one of the most beautiful spots in Vietnam. We booked a tour to pick us up at 8 am the next morning
and tried to contain our excitement.
The drive took about 3 hours one way on a small mini-bus with about 16 other people. The guide began to call upon each person to say where they are from and what their names were, etc. When he eventually called upon Nate and I we told him we were from America and our names. He responded with "OH so you two are a couple, yes??" If I had a nickel for every time someone here thought me and Nate were dating... I would be richer then Bill Gates by this point. We told him no, that we were just friends but he kept insisting and even asked "Double bed in hotel room??" GAH, no! I mention this because it has been so interesting to realize that it is extremely rare to come across two people of the opposite sex traveling together whom are not a couple! We have only met one other friend group traveling like us and they had met in Vietnam and decided to travel together! How very new age of us, no?
Anyway, when we finally arrived at Halong bay we got on to a boat
to do a cruise around the various islands. There are over 2,000 limestone islands here and they were all breathtaking! We got served a delicious lunch on the boat and sped around the bay. We were able to meet many other tourists on this boat and surprisingly enough majority of them were young backpackers like ourselves. (Side note: we have also noticed there are virtually NO american tourists anywhere in Asia, majority of them are from the UK, weird huh? I guess Americans don't travel much...) After lunch we docked a small floating dock filled with kayaks. We were assigned kayaks to paddle around a bay and through caves. It started to rain, which could have ruined someones experience, however, for us it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. The rain was warm and soft, the water was hot, the cliffs of the islands seemed to never end and there were so many smiling faces enjoying this ecotourism. We were actually lucky enough to kayak around the part of Halong bay where a scene in 007 was filmed, weird! Unfortunately I don't have any kayaking photos since I didn't want to ruin my camera in
the rain, but you can use your imagination!
After kayaking we took a tour of some famous caves on one of the islands. It was nice but a bit crowded for our tastes. (The caves of Vang Vieng, Laos were much more peaceful and less commercialized) After the caves we returned to the bus and took the long 3 hour journey back to Hanoi. It had been such a beautiful day and I am so happy we were able to make the journey if only for a day.
Our next stop? Hoi an, Vietnam: a beautiful old-style beach town!
[Sorry my posts are getting shorter but it is hard to break away from it all and turn my experiences into words, hope you are enjoying my efforts!]
There are more photos below