Due to us not having internet connection for Sunday night, I have included Monday in with this post. Sorry to all those who have been clicking away hoping the latest post is available.
Today, we start with a four-hour transfer from Hanoi to Ha Long by coach. Coach travel is always interesting if you don’t mind travelling at the speed limit of 80kph maximum but often between 40 and 60kph. To see accidents almost happen in slow motion is rather scary. We see 3 large vehicles coming towards us side-by-side on a two-lane road. We make for the far right side of the vehicle mass coming towards us and then a Mercedes overtakes us and squeezes in between us before we pass the broad face of vehicles. Ooh, that is close. The road builders don’t seem to have any co-ordination with the bridge builders – we almost have to stop to get onto, and off, most of the bridges due to some sort of surveyor glitch.
We stop for a rest at a handicrafts factory where 70% of the workers are handicapped. Beautiful embroidery, lacquer work, woodcarvings, marble work, clothing. Some of us purchase clothes, others artifacts to carefully pack in already bulging suitcases.
The more you get out into the countryside, the more interesting some of the loads become. We see motorbikes loaded with market food but this one tops the lot. A bull has its feet tied together, lying on its side on the back of a motorbike. His head is hanging down close to the axle. And the driver is a female. “Call in the cruelty to animals campaigners”. Of course, and we can’t understand why, but he is displaying all his manly bits. We realize it is all a ‘load of bull’.
Arriving at the town of Ha Long, we board a Junk. This is a traditional Chinese invention, and we cruise to Ha Long Bay, just 2 hours away, while having lunch. Ha Long Bay has been nominated as one of the seven natural wonders of the modern world. The area has over 2000 islands that come straight up out of the water and make a rather imposing sight. There are many other Junks in the bay, full of tourists who have come out to visit and to wander through some extensive caves. The locals have done a great job of creating a safe path through the caves.
We have a chance to kayak or swim for an hour or so before the evening meal. The meal comes to 6 courses. Our evening is free and we enjoy sitting on the top deck taking photos of the other junks anchored in the bay and reminiscing on the trip to-date.
The early morning light on the junks is impressive as other passengers on other junks gather on the top deck to do some tai chi warm up exercises. Breakfast does not include weet-bix and milk, just some bacon and eggs, and banana and bread. We have to collect fresh water before setting off back to Ha Long to board the coach back to Hanoi. We leave behind one of the great memories of a great trip in Vietnam. More interesting traffic; wow, another interesting load – this time a pig is in the same position
Arriving back in Hanoi, we have 2 hours of showers and resting before boarding cyclos as transport to our restaurant for our ‘farewell dinner’ as our group splits tomorrow; 7 returning to Melbourne, 2 staying on in Hanoi for 3 more nights, and 4 including a cycling tour and a visit to Sa Pa in the highlands near the Chinese boarder. The cyclos take us into the busy evening streets of Hanoi and through the ‘old town’ where the locals and tourists are enjoying the evening. It is Vietnam Independence Day and the lights around a lake and in the trees is impressive; and I have forgotten to bring my video camera, bummer. The meal at this hidden away swish restaurant is ‘fit for a king’. Speeches are given and our tour guide, Huyen, says he has been proud to show off his country, again and looks forward to seeing us in the future.