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Published: January 25th 2013
Back again at last avid readers. Slight delay as it took us some time to find a computer that we could understand but we are now on our last ful day in hanoi after some more superlative adventures.
Last day in Chiang Mai went to Orchid Farm and humongous waterfall in national park - lovely. Walked our socks off first day in Hanoi. Fascinating and crazy city (cue amazing Blog Fact - Hanoi has 9 million inhabitants and 6 million motorcycles!!...and they are everywhere. If Ho Chi Min City is "worse" ...can't wait!!). Went to oldest temple in Hanoi - closed on Mondays! Ho-hum. Temple of Literature beautiful - 5 courtyards with gorgeous flowers, ancient architecture including tablets of stone set on stone turtles with the names of the the scholars/graduates from the temple. All based on Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism - fascinating. Also had biggest drum and bell I have ever seen. Hoam Kiem Lake in the centre very peaceful escape from crazy tooting bikes and cars. Sally loved it because she saw a turtle swimming as we enjoyed a coffee. (cue amazing Blog legend - King from way back trying to defeat invaders is presented with magic sword by giant turtle - sounds reasonable - King defeats invaders and builds temple. Goes back on lake and turtle reappears to get his sword back - as any self respecting turtle would do - King builds pagoda type thing at other end of lake in praise of turtle). Temple (Ngoc Son) has statues to Confucius and connected to mainland by famous japanese style red wooden bridge. Pagoda thing particularly lovely when lit up in evening.
Highlight of day trip to water puppet theatre in evening. Very old traditional North Vietnamese art form where puppeteers stand in water behind screen and puppets perform in/on water. Story based on history of Vietnamese people (cue second amazing Blog legend - dragon of sea meets beautiful fairy bird of forest and fall in love. They mate and have 100 babies - yes 100!! half live on the sea and half on the land and all have more babies - lots more; hence the number and ethnic diversity of Vietnamese people which slips us neatly into next amazing blog fact - over 50 different ethnic groups in Vietnam)
Halong Bay! Superlatives fail us both and you were right Em, what a highlight. Have simply never seen anything like it before and the weather broke from warm but dull to glorious sunshine and real heat from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. Boat was brilliant - fantastic traditional vietnamese food and friendly lovely crew. Your writer enjoyed two 7.00 am sessions of Tai Chi but sadly writer's mate only made it on the second morning..... Only 4 people on our trip doing 3 days so spent second day with a Canadian called dave and his mate a Vietnamese American called Tai - really nice guys - we had a great time.
Activities in a nutshell - visit to floating fishing village and bamboo boat trip; visit to pearl farm (more jewellery), kayaking through caves to lagoons; trekking to top of small island; bit of beach time and trip to 'amazing caves with surprising inside' as our guide put it. he wasn't wrong though - three incredible caverns which about ??000 years ago was under water. Ok amazing Blog legend - Ha Long means Descending Dragon and long ago the fire breath of the descending dragons created the 2000 islands that make up Ha Long Bay. Now don't be cynical reader - the fact that all these islands were under water 1000's of years ago will not shift my belief in the undoubted truth of this legend. Whatever...the islands are an incredible sight especially in the early morning and dusk and they cover a vast area - 2000 square miles I think the guide said - guess that could be another amazing blog fact. Today might take a look at Ho Chi Min mausoleum and the art museum. Tomorow fly to Hue. Well getting a bit finger tired now and have to check tomorrow's flights etc so will sign off.
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