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June 11th 2010
Published: June 14th 2010
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We were awoken from our slumber close to 5:45 am China time and 4:45am Vietnam time. Exiting the train there appeared to be no train station, but rather an alley. There were plenty of cab drivers shouting at us. We were a little confused and had no real plan. Ichiro said that we could split a cab and head to his hostel. Since we had no better options we took him up on his offer. The standard cab negotiations began. There was another group from the states, one of which also taught in China. They were paying 100 kuai to get to their hostel. It seemed a little steep and I negotiated with our cab driver for 5 USD, or 30 kuai. I know how far that would get us and knew that Vietnam should be even cheaper than China. A total of 9 minutes later we arrived at the hostel. The driver kept insisting that we pay him six dollars and even held the money up to me to pretend to give it back; possibly suggesting that $5.00 was insulting but $6.00 he could live with. I snatched the money back from him as I was tired of his greedy charades as it was after all at most a $2.00 fare. I fully intended on paying the $5 but wanted to mess with him a bit. After all he did start off in telling us $50 USD for the ride. Maybe it is not that cool to rip off the tourists in your city, though I knew he would learn no lesson from my game as I handed him the $5 as he graciously walked away. .

So after an all night train ride we were in Vietnam with no solid plan and realized we had gained an hour after crossing into Vietnam. Our objective was to find a ride to Ha Long Bay some two hours away. The front desk did not open until 7am and we had herd from another group waiting in the lobby that the tour groups for Ha Long Bay generally picked you up around 8 am. They had just arrived via the night train from Sapa and had already visited Ha long bay. We sat and waited, eventually booked a tour group with the front desk, then had some breakfast.

Around 8:15 am the bus for the Ha Long Bay tour pulled up. We paid $95 USD for a two night three day cruise. One night on the boat and one night in a hotel on Cat ba Island. We got a little sleep in the van ride and were looking forward to our trip to the Bay.

Our guides name was Tam. He spoke good English and was pretty informative as far as I could tell. Tam was rambling on about who knows what for a good twenty minutes. Elyse and I were pretty exhausted and I wasn’t really paying attention. Elyse would latter attest to hearing that there are 6 million people in Hanoi and over 4 million motor bikes.

By 9 am the temperature was rising and the humidity was near 95% even at 5 am. We tried to mentally prepare ourselves for the weather by remembering Shenzhen in August as we first arrived in Southern China. There is really no preparing yourself for this weather. it’s a virtual green house everywhere you go. After all, for all of the green houses I’ve ever stepped into I had observed plants that were simply growing on the side of the road here in Vietnam. Elyse referenced it to a steam room, what ever the analogy both accounts were an accurate depiction.

From our friends whom visited in January we had learned that the Bay was beautiful yet very touristy. The drive was three and a half hours in total, yet could have been 3 if we didn’t spend half an hour at some cheesy ceramics / marble statue / over priced crap store. This is after all Asia so we would have been fooling our selves if we were to believe that we could get on any tour and not stop by some tourist trap that enticed complete morons from spending 900% more than they would have on any given city market with the exact same products. Unfortunately one of our travel companions in Xi’an fell for a similar tourist trap.

Upon arriving at the docks we headed towards are boat. A majority of the over night boats looked exactly the same. Elyse was pushing to go on the same cruise that some our fiends went on, yet it was $25 more than what we had paid. We didn’t after all have that many options since we were limited to what the hostel had offered us. A buddy of mine let me know that pretty much all of the tours were the same in the budget, mid and luxury level and it didn’t really make much sense to spend more money on the mid level cruise. Our boat was way better than I had imagined. The room was big and the bathroom was a good size.

There were only 13 or so passengers on our boat and about five crew members. There was a group of six from Singapore who spoke excellent English. The reason being that in Singapore English was their first language. I really had no idea of this until I had meet this group of people. One of the girls learned that we had lived in California and talked to us about her trip the year before. She told us that she was really disappointed to learn that the old television show the OC wasn’t really like the real OC at all in real life. Apparently she was a big fan and spent several days touring around trying to find things that were shown on the show. I though this was hilarious but didn’t judge her for checking out California. She loved it either way. There was also an Australian couple around age that we immediately befriended as we had recently visited their country. I think that they were pleased to meet some US citizens that had made it that far South. There was another couple from Holland that was around our age as well. Then there was Doug; a recent Cal grad was getting his MBA form Hong Kong University. He had spent all of seven days in Hong Kong prior to heading to SE Asia. His school doesn’t begin until September and he wanted an early jump on seeing Asia. He was Asian by descent and even had family living in China. He had no real clear idea on what he wanted to do with his MBA, nor did he speak any Mandarin or Cantonese. Doug had found some weed and invited everyone to smoke with him, however everyone declined. It didn’t stop him at all.

We got lunch on the boat, went to a cave, went kayaking, then jumped off the boat for some swimming then had dinner around 7pm and back in the room by 9:30pm. Poor Elyse was sick ever since we entered the cave and once we exited the cave was in our room the rest of the night with severe stomach pains and well frequent visits to the bano. Hopefully she gets better soon.


14th June 2010

Good Morning, Vietnam!
Sure hope Elyse is feeling better....I know the feeling!!! Did she turn green????I hope I never have to go on another cruise! Lots of humidity??? John knows that all too well!!!!

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