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Published: November 21st 2017
After a flight to Hanoi we spent our last few days on the go from morning till night.... we were getting used to this lifestyle. The streets of Hanoi bustled with millions of motor cycles weaving in amongst the cars,busses and trucks .... and using our new skills of road crossing we ventured out to see the street life. There were the very many street food stalls with clients sitting round on their little plastic stools eating pho, women selling baskets of eggs, fruit and vegetables, fish being descaled ( some of them still flapping in the baskets), chickens for sale etc etc and old men sitting round the lake playing card games. Life is lived right there on the street - we loved it . In the evening one of the roads was closed to traffic by the big lake and families gathered to watch and play games and dancing and just generally have fun. We walked past the beautiful Opera House all lit up very elegant and quite a contrast to the streets of the Old Town.
In the rain we explored the Ho Chi Min Complex, his mausoleum and the stilt house in which he lived quite
a simple life - I mentioned this in a previous post... and nearby we saw the One Pillar Pagoda, designed to represent a lotus flower, a symbol of purity rising from a sea of sorrow. Then there was the Confucian Temple of Literature with its five courtyards and roofed gateways....typical of 11th century Vietnamese architecture.... the temple was dedicated to Confucius in 1070- so round about the time William the Conqueror was invading Britain with his hordes of Normans...it's good to have a Global Timeline.
Then out in the countryside as we drove to Halong Bay we passed all the rice paddies and in spite of me wanting to get a photo of water buffalo - every time they appeared I had put the camera down , so never managed to get one- but they were there. On the way we stopped at a centre where disabled people work producing the most beautiful silk pictures ...we chatted to them and watched how skilled they were, and of course Jenny and I had to buy one. Good to see such a place. Another stop was a local ceramics factory and it was interesting to see how items from large pots
to spoons were being produced by old methods of working.
So it would be a shame to be in Vietnam and not visit Halong Bayso we were very happy that a one night stay on a boat there was included in our tour. I had seen photos but never imagined it to be as stunning as it was when we finally got there. Described as "magical and mysterious" we were certainly spellbound as we sailed on our boat amongst some of the Bays 2 or 3000 or so limestone islands which tower up above the turquoise green waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Breathtaking it certainly is and so relaxing to lie on the top deck of the boat as it chugs along. We were lucky that the boat was exclusively for our group's use and were actually very surprised at how lovely the cabins were and as it turned out how delicious and varied the food was especially the seafood . With a small crew of about 5 or 6 guys we were so well looked after. Of course we weren't allowed to just loaf about on the boat there was a little boat trip to one of
the islands to explore the limestone caves, climbing up hundreds of steps of course and then another quick change into swimwear and off to the beach for the sunset and a swim! There was a choice of course...you could stay on board and loaf about but Jenny and I don't like to miss out on anything ...so it was steps up and down and rambling about in well lit enormous caves, sunset and a swim which then turned into a bit of a disaster as Jenny was the unlucky one and got stung by a jellyfish on her leg !! Swelling up pretty quickly the Aussies knew what to do and first aid was administered with ice and lemon from the nearby bar ...put on her leg ..not in a G&T!! Then antihistamine when we got back to the boat and as it was still painful to touch Jenny had an ingenious way of making a skirt out of a pashmina- as always she was looking very elegant !! Next day she was recovering pretty well.
We had seen the sunset so of course we had to get up and 5 am to see the sunrise ...how lucky we
have been to be in this wonderful place, to have been able to travel in Cambodia and Vietnam , to meet some really lovely people, make new friends and have such a range of amazing experiences.
I almost forgot ..the Water Puppet theatre.... we were taken through the real back streets and came to the house of the puppet man ...climbing more stairs we came to what looked like his living room..first he gave us tea and a cookie( very politely we had to take it ) then he told us about how generations of his family made their own puppets and used to go out into the paddy fields to give shows. Then we climbed up to another floor for the show... it was something different from Punch and Judy..and obviously kids would love it ...we all had a go at trying to work the puppets so we could see how skillful that puppeteer actually was.
It was the end of the tour and next was our flight home with our last real Vietnamese coffee in Hanoi airport...Then Kuala Lumpur airport with a 5 hr stopover... the time went pretty quickly after a drink in Flight Club
, a walk in the KL airport Jungle and there's a nice seating area that we found up on first floor with armchairs so we nabbed that.
This was our first trip to SE Asia and we had loved it , so no doubt we will soon be planning the next one.
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