Hanoi and Halong Bay
What a shock to the system Hanoi is. This is a capital city like no other that I have ever seen; it is crazy chaotic in a city where it is every person for themselves. The main thing that you notice in Hanoi is motorbikes, motorbikes and motorbikes! We found that the limitations that many people have about a motorbike and family life have been overcome here. The idea that a big car is necessary for a family because you need to be able to transport people and goods around is a misconception that has been proven to not be necessary here in Hanoi. A motorbike carrying 3 people on it is not an uncommon site, the best that I saw was a motorbike with 5 people on it. And when I saw a motorbike transporting a queen size spring mattress down the road then I realised that anything can be possible on a motorbike.
Crossing the road takes on a new meaning in Hanoi. No one will wait for you to cross and there is very rarely a break in the traffic. It is necessary to do as the locals do here when they
cross the road (or just wait for one to come along and hide next to them), this involves hoping and then slowly walk across the road. Whilst walking hopefully all of the motorbikes will part beside you and you just need to watch out for a bus, some compare it to parting the red sea. It involves a lot of nerve and can take a few times before you know what your doing. After a day we became experts at crossing the road, we found that the main trick is to say a silent prayer to yourself before attempting to cross.
Whilst in Hanoi we visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex where Ho Chi Minh's body is been kept. We also visited the Hoa Lo Prison Museum, also known by many as the “Hanoi Hilton” which was where John McCain was a Prisoner of war.
We also took a 2 day side trip to Halong Bay which was very beautiful. We spent 2 days and 1 night on a junk ship in the Bay. It was a truly amazing landscape with hundreds of islands poking out of the water.
We took a bike ride on some
very old school bikes (complete with front baskets) in the National Park there. We were also supposed to go on a hike but the group of tourists infront of us ran into a deadly snake, so we decided against that. Instead we sat around with some locals and drank some kind of poisonous alcoholic substance which came out of a jar which also contained dead snakes, birds and lizards. Apparently this is a traditional local alcoholic beverage but I could not help but wonder if this was all just a big joke so that the locals could laugh at being able to convince the stupid tourists for drinking such crap!!!
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