Edit Blog Post
Published: August 8th 2007
Well we arrived in Vietnam quite late. It was a crazy place compared with the sedate Laos that we had just left. Hanoi seemed to move at 100 miles per hour. Our Hotel in Hanoi was surrounded by traffic, shops, and restaurants and we ended up having our dinner in a cafe next to the hotel as everyone was too afraid to attempt crossing any roads before a good nights sleep.
In the morning a walking tour of Hanoi was on the agenda however my foot (which had been slightly side lined by the whole dehydration incident) was still playing up hugely. So I went with Simon, who was having issues with his teeth, to a local clinic. Let's just say after an x-ray and a consultation from a very good doctor we were none the wiser but he did suggest bed rest which made us both laugh out loud. Any way I spent the rest of the day in the hotel with HBO again, this time I watched a couple of really good films (well anything counts as better than Cat Woman) and waited for everyone to get back.
That evening we all headed to a water
puppet show which was like nothing I had seen before. It consisted of puppets, a pool of water, a live orchestra and a screen from which the puppets would emerge and hide behind. It was actually really sweet.
The next day was spent trying to see the things I had missed the day before due to my bloody foot. After securing the services of a taxi bike to take me to the sights- for a small fee we set off. Now I have to take a break here to explain about the taxi bikes. These are bikes which hang around at the side of the road touting for business. They are not licensed, just Joe average hoping to secure a dollar here and there. The other thing is the fact that no one wears a crash helmet and I'm sure the suggestion of one would have you laughed out of Vietnam. And the last thing to mention here is the traffic, which is straight from the pages of 'The No Rules Book of Scary Traffic'. As I sat on the back of the bike and we headed into a stream of traffic that was heading right for us I
decided there and then to not get hysterical and just trust my driver. I have pictures to prove the comedy that is the roads of Hanoi, such as little bikes carrying the most huge, ridiculous cargo from gianormous baskets of fruit, pots and pans, boxes of take away food and a small tree to whole families. The most people our group counted on a bike was 4 grown adults and a family of 5 with three kids sandwiched between two adults.
Any way back to my trip. My first stop was The One Pillar Pagoda and the Presidential Palace which are known for being great examples of French Colonial architecture. Ho Chi Min never lived in the Presidential Palace as after years directing his war time campaign in the forest he was then only comfortable in a simple two story teak stilt house which was situated in the grounds and I think was far more beautiful than the palace it's self. However the place was teaming with tourists and after a few pics I realised I was less interested by the sights than the thought of my ride back, it is so much fun and I especially love the
freedom of having no helmet!!!
When back I took a cyclo ride through the streets of Hanoi with Eric from our group. A cylo is a bike with a seat at the front and is designed to give you a leisurely sight seeing experience but I could never fully get over the way I was being peddled about by a poor old man, like I was the bloody queen, and I wanted to jump out and say let me have a go for a while.
That aside, this way of seeing the streets of Hanoi was a really special experience, you got to see street life as it was happening there and then. People cooking, selling and eating food. The smells were delicious. It was really special to take in the colourful stools, the sounds of shouting and bartering and the continuous stream of traffic that waxed and waned in the busy or quieter streets. The Vietnamese people are so beautiful and if I was here longer I could probably tell the difference between a Thai, Laos and Vietnamese look but I'm your common or garden traveller and as a generic look, South East Asian people are still
the most beautiful I've ever come across.
Before we put our bags in storage and collected our over night bags, the book that Simon (our tour guide) had suggested we might like to read before getting to Cambodia was being sold by street kids out side our hotel. Some of us got a copy and then we got on the coach and headed for Ha Long Bay in the Golf of Tonkin.
After we got to our hotel which was situated right on the sea we all headed to different places for dinner. Unfortunately the place we ended up at must have been the scummiest joint not only in Vietnam but in South East Asia itself!!! The tables were all greasy and the poor fish, crabs and lobsters living in an inch of water in the tanks outside were all praying to be picked and eaten. As I walked past the kitchen door on the way to the loos I cannot explain the hole that made up that kitchen and to top it off the toilet had actual black bugs running across every surface. You may be surprised to know we actually still ate there but there is
a lot to be said for English politeness as the thought of getting up, making a fuss and leaving after we had already ordered was not even an option.
Next day we all awoke to the news that two of our group had been robbed in the night. This was one of those nasty robbing's where the intruder had been in their room when they were sleeping and stole their stuff from under their sleeping noses; enough to scare the crap out of me any way. After filling in the necessary paperwork (which Simon had to borrow off another tour guide as he had used all of his up on me, my camera, dehydration and foot problem) we eventually got onto the boat. The boat took us out of Halong bay, Halong Bay being the place of Vietnamese pride, where over the years they were undefeated in battle at sea. Halong also means 'where the dragon descends to the sea' and the limestone rocks and islands were as legend would have it, created by the pounding tail of the dragon- thankfully there have been no recent sightings of him.
We enjoyed a day cruising along through the islands
aboard our ship where we settled in for a very chilled out day. We got out once to look at a place that farmed a certain fish (can't remember which one?) And to explore the caves of stalagmites and stalactites. After this we were served a three course lunch which began with crab. Now I have to say this was the first time I had ever been served a whole crab and a pair of nut crackers as a utensil in place of a knife and fork eat it....so the look on my face must have looked suitably bemused. I sat there for a bit and looked around at what other people where doing but luckily Eric, an experienced shell fish eater (as it turned out) took pity on me and showed me the way forward. It was a bit frustrating that all that effort only gave you a tiny morsel of meat to suck on before you had to crack into the crab all over again. Things were made that bit more frustrating as Sarah is really weird about this stuff so I was having to shell her crab at the same time. The second and third and yes
fourth serving were easier to deal with than the crab but over all were a ridiculous amount of food. This most relaxing day unfortunately came to an end as we docked back at Halong bay. Soon after we grabbed our over night bags before catching the coach back to Hanoi and then getting on the over night train to Hue……
Tot: 0.051s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 9; qc: 61; dbt: 0.0144s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb