Our overnight train trip from Hanoi to Hue began on the wrong platform and once that was straightened out the 16 of us crammed into 4 of the tiniest sleeping compartments i have ever seen. Two bunks up and two down. With no AC and windows that didn’t open, the moving sauna complete with local fauna and some flora rolled south though the night. On the up side, the dawn was magical and the coffee excellent.
Hue is north of Danang and what was the demilitarized zone in the Vietnam war. Parts of the city suffered damage during what is referred to here as the North and South Vietnamese conflict. The day in Hue was busy. we r only here for 1 day and made the most of it. Our first visit was to the Citadel and Forbidden city which was the seat of the emperors of Vietnam until 1945 – Hue was the capital of the country until then.
On the way there I had a close encounter with a motorbike while crossing the road – motorbike got the worst of that and I ended up with a skinned shin. Following that episode we then spent time at the 400 yr old Mu Pagoda and finished up at the Emperors tomb. After a long walk through the complex and aa
long build up it turns out that the guy isn’t even buried there (see below) – lovely place though very peaceful.
Vietnamese burial rituals are an interesting blend of several religions and belief systems. Vietnamese believe in geomancy (feng shui) in life and death and the location of a grave is very important to ensure that family fortunes remain positive. Graves are located close by, in fields, rice paddies or in some instances at the foot of gardens by the house.
Following an initial period of mourning which can last up to three years, the bones are removed from the first grave and interred in a smaller grave. Many families have spirit houses in front of their homes where offerings to ancestors are made. Grave locations may be altered if family fortunes decline in the hope that the family luck will improve. Funerals are important occasions and elaborate coffin makers can be found in most towns.
Carol and I had a few minutes to indulge in some retail therapy to add some light clothing to our kits. It is hot and humid here – although there is a lovely breeze on the 7th floor restaurant and pool. We head for Hoi An tomorrow.
Our local guide filled us in on the legends behind Halong Bay on our three hour drive to the coast from Hanoi. Halong Bay is known as standing dragon bay – folklore says that the karsts (limestone formations) were created by a purring dragon to help protect Vietnam from Invaders. The limestone here is 500 million plus years old and has been shaped over millions of years by multiple inundations of sea, tectonics and wind. There are approximately 2300 limestone islands in the bay. The site is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
We arrived in Halong after passing through dozens of small towns and rice paddies. Some still being worked by oxen, others more mechanized. After picking up a huge bag of fresh oysters from the road side (the bay is a centre of extensive oyster farming) we headed for the pier and our junk. Once aboard we headed out to the centre of Halong Bay. Our first shore excursion was a vertical climb up to the lock out 400 meters about the Bay. The resulting panorama was incredible. Carol and i were surprised on the way up to the lookout with the volcanic intrusives that we saw – basalts and granite. Tremendous pressure has pushed bedding lines almost vertically. After a stunning sunset and bamboo boat trip around the lagoon inside one of the largest karsts we settled in for dinner. One interesting thing was a small population of monkeys on that karst. How they got into the middle of nowhere poses a question. Would be interesting to know if any genetic shift has occurred in the population.
There are hundreds of tour boats here – must be even more in high season. They throw their garbage right into the Bay which detracts from the experience . They did all look lovely at sunset though with their sails raised against the setting sun. Some cruised around the harbour this am with the passengers on the top deck having a Tai Chi class. Lovely misty morning. Vendors selling everything from fish to chips row around to the various boats throughput the day.
The food here is incredible (I keep saying that don’t I 🙂 ) – seafood, prawns, crab cakes, sautéed, squid, oysters, chicken curry, steamed vegetables, and it keeps coming…………….. Carol and I skipped the after dinner karaoke and had an early night – some members of the group boogied on until late with a karaoke machine. Was good late entertainment – they probably heard them in Hanoi :-)))
Today we explore a cave – with stalactites and stagalmites – tites go down, mites go up 🙂 wonderful visit – first large cave I have been in. It was found by the French around 1900 – a boat was driven into the bay due to bad weather. A crew member climbed a tree to get his bearings and look for food. He fell out of the tree and then into a hole that rolled him into the cave. There are three large caverns – hope that the photos do them justice.
Headed back to Hanoi to catch a sleeper train to Hue. Hope to be able to charge electronics and find some WIFI on the way somewhere. Found the WIFI 🙂 In and out but hope this will go.
Met a diverse group last night. Some 20 somethings from Norway who interestingly enough come from a town within a few miles from where my mom was born and raised. Small world. People from Britain plus Carol and myself and 5 mystery guests who weren’t at the meeting. Our tour leader is a girl who is a close double to KD Lang. One of her questions was if we are Ok with mice and cockroaches as both apparently make the overnight rail trip from Hanoi to Hue with us – following our return from Halong Bay. Another tip was not to use the train toilet during stops as people will try and crawl in the toilet windows to ask you for money. An interesting visual……
one of the highlights yesterday was learning how to cross Hanoi streets. 8 million people live here and there are 7 million motor bikes in in the city. I have yet to see a traffic light though. To cross the road you just start walking slowly and the vehicles drive around you – took a leap of faith the first time – but it does work and we are still here. One guy drove right up behind me on a motor bike and blew his horn – didn’t see or hear him coming and almost ended up on his handle bars – jumped so high 🙂 The sound is continuous in the streets, a cacophony of horns, engines, people. At night the bass beat from the myriad night clubs in the area adds to the general din.
Good morning from Vietnam 🙂 just finished another excellent bowl of Pho to start the day. More later – probably in a day or so – do not believe there is internet in Halong Bay
A wonderful day! After a good sleep and a wonderful breakfast of Chicken pho we hired a guide for the day and set out to explore Hanoi. our first stop was the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum , presidential palace and museum park. We visited the mausoleum where he is buried, as well as the Ho Chi Minh museum which is a fascinating record of his life and the evolution of Vietnam from the 1800’s to present. The gardens around museum and mausoleum are lovely. Our next stop was an incredible textile group which employs women damaged by agent orange to do exquisite embroidery. I got into serious trouble in the textile outlet – not a good omen for the rest of
of the trip. After a stop at Hoam Kiem Lake and a visit to the resident temple – we headed to an incredible roof top garden cafe for egg coffee
– way better than it sounds 🙂 then on to the old quarter and street food. we had the best lunch i have ever had, squatting in the road in the market on little plastic stools while mopeds roared around us. we started with bowls of salad, shredded vegetables, broth, spices, fresh cilantro, mint, lettuce, barbecued beef. Then moved on to Cornish pasty type dough stuffed with grains, been sprouts, mushrooms, spices, eggs. green tea on ice washed it all down. The street food vendors set up in the road as there is no rent owed to the Govt. Any permanent shops pay a healthy rental fee. can’t forget to mention – lunch for three was $5 total.
Our day finished with a stop at a local beer shop – the local beer is really good – three beers (again enjoyed sitting on little plastic stools in the street) totalled $1.50. Lovely weather – mid 70’s nice breeze 🙂
Have a trip meeting tonight and off to Halong Bay tomorrow.
Forever it seems……. Been an interesting 30 hrs so far. The flight out of Comox got cancelled because of fog – off down island to the Duke point terminal we went. caught the ferry and cabbed it to the airport. The flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong was delayed until 2:30 am. 14 hr overnight flight. Had an extra legroom seat which was nice 🙂 Caught up on some reading and watching a couple of movies I have been wanting to see – The November Man and Boyhood. Boyhood is excellent and well worth the time. The delay has been a nuisance. The airline sold the seats that a small group of us had booked on the connecting flight to Hanoi – we are now sitting in Hong Kong airport waiting for new boarding passes to be issued on a new flight- in the meantime, all the transfers to the hotels at the Hanoi end of the trip are toast….. On the up side have met some very nice people along the route . Things are getting a bit surrealistic as we are all sleep deprived…… More later.
Arrived in the Old Quarter of Hanoi and our hotel! Found Carol at
the airport and we shared a car in. What a fabulous place!!! Sharing some quick photos. Have a whole day tomorrow to explore. Doing a street food and old quarter tour.
The old quarter of Hanoi was originally a naze of 36 streets each devoted to a separate industry. Now it is the location of some of the best street food in Vietnam and hosts about 99% of the world’s moped population with everyone tooting their horn at the same time 🙂 We have a lovely quiet room on the 6th floor of the hotel facing the back.
Hi Everyone, As some of you know I am headed to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand at the end of this week. I will be blogging and posting photos as I go – hopefully the connection to Facebook will work and notifications will be posted there as I blog during my travels. For those of you interested in following my route I have added a map of my itinerary. If the link doesn’t work to FB you can follow the blog at travelswithanne.wordpress.com Looking forward to sharing the trip with you all!