Bach Ma, Hue, Hanoi, HaLong Bay

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June 27th 2005
Published: July 22nd 2005
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View from Bach MaView from Bach MaView from Bach Ma

On this line you can see the Vietnam coast all the way to the horizon. The building is a relic from the French reteats before thier war.
Being so high in elevation with clear views of the ocean it really seems that you can see the horizon follow a gentle curve. Bach Ma national park served as a 'chill out station' for French wealth. An hours drive up to 1800 meters makes temperatures bearable again. I lost the leech contest, Daniel my German friend has 6 leeches on his feet after a long hike in the park, I had 3. Accommodation can only be had at the ranger station and in the evenings we listened to Vietnamese weekenders sing songs while one in our group tried to match his age and the young guys in Sake shots, it was his 24th birthday. He's English, that's all I can say for him.

In Hue, the ancient capital we toured the sites with a deaf - mute restaurant owner. Mr Lak led on the motorbikes cutting through traffic without care and with ease. I'm still impressed at his skill in communicating with slow witted backpackers. Moving towards the DMZ we tried to hire a guide to Hamburger Hill. It seems that guides will drive you around the country for a couple of hours, pick a random hill and say

Fall to the left, fall to the left!
"There it is!" The Japanese are conducting de-mining operations, you can't get near it. In fact most all the war sites are nothing more than a bomb crater here and there and metal scraps. The Agent Orange in the area still inhibits large growth. Enric became the first of many I've been riding with to run off the road, to hear him explain it the cows got in the way or the sun was in his eyes.

Hanoi is a way off from central Vietnam but what's an 18 hour bus ride after 100 days on the road? The worlds cheapest beer resides in Vietnam and none more than Hanoi, for 1500 Dong (9 American cents) you can pull up an 18 inch stool near passing traffic, chat with the expats who are approaching "Norm!!" status with the locals, and listen to your stories get funnier and funnier with each glass, The beer is fresh, no preservatives so they dump it at the end of the night and weak as well, 2 percent tops. Pretty much like Coors Light. Ho Chi Minh is also on prominent display, check your camera at the door and you can pass the former

Just another damn sunset photo.
president who is preserved in a glass case within a huge marble mausoleum. I'm a little confused why its Communist tradition to preserve leaders, an impressive feeling though. A charming city, every new building still has a construction crane next to it. Incredibly packed with people; at dawn an amazing site can be seen. The entire city moves towards open spaces to exercise, take a jog, stretch, use traffic gates to do pull ups really a pleasant part of their culture to observe.

I tested my fitness in Halong Bay and Cat Ba island by getting lost in the midst of 1000 small karst islands. We spent the first day and a half on the large junks that scatter the area, after dark the boats tie up and everyone jumps off the top deck and swims. Swim 50 meters past the boat lights and you light up when you move your limbs around the plankton. I didn't really believe that it could be that vivid and luminescent but wow! We also visited a "Disney on Drugs" cave, filled with neon lights and odd signs, felt like you were down the rabbit hole. All the guided kayak tours were half
Sake and Danish BeerSake and Danish BeerSake and Danish Beer

It was Ben's birthday, not his 21st but I think he managed about that many shots of sake.
day tops and always around the boat so I decided to go alone, none of my friends thought 10 hours in a kayak sounded like fun. Things were going great, had the IPod jamming, 5 liters of water, a crappy map and lots of energy. After paddling into a box canyon with glass water and lots of jellyfish I guess I took another canyon out because by four I realized that I was completely lost. I paddled non stop until 6:30pm and asked some bewildered fisherman for directions. Stupid American.

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


Dragon HeadDragon Head
Dragon Head

In Hue, boats have a little more flair.
Which way is up?Which way is up?
Which way is up?

I'm embarrased to say I could remember which way this pillar reads. Is it right side up?

Hundreds of concubines lounged here in Hue.
Country BridgeCountry Bridge
Country Bridge

There is a plaque stating this bridge has stood since America's year of independence. I don't buy it.

This was a strange oasis around enormous fields of rice.

One of a few buildings left from the Citadel in Hue that wasn't bombed during the war.
Hah Hah - Crazy SpaniardHah Hah - Crazy Spaniard
Hah Hah - Crazy Spaniard

It cost 60000 dong for this little rice paddy mess up. He did stay on the bike though.
Junk to Cat BaJunk to Cat Ba
Junk to Cat Ba

Hanoi is Filled with tour operators to Halong Bay, I worried that it would look like Lake Havasu during Spring Break. This was as busy as I saw it.
Rock Climbing in Flip FlopsRock Climbing in Flip Flops
Rock Climbing in Flip Flops

On the kayaking trip I climbed 7 or 8 meters to get a good shot of this small bay. The rocks were so sharp they cut through my $1.20 flops.
Where am I?Where am I?
Where am I?

This was at about 4pm when I realized I couldn't remember the way back.
Walkway to the beachWalkway to the beach
Walkway to the beach

Around 800 meters long, this is the only access to a lovely beach on Cat Ba island.
Tunnel HaircutTunnel Haircut
Tunnel Haircut

To the left is a long tunnel connecting the bay with a small village on Cat Ba
End of the BayEnd of the Bay
End of the Bay

These seem to be the last islands of Halong Bay.

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