This blog seems to have become obsessed with the Vietnam War! Whatever happened to travelling and just being a tourist?
Well for the last few days we've been doing just that - being tourists. In fact we've been on a cruise - can't get much more touristy than that! Well cruise is perhaps stretching it a bit. We've been on a boat for 2 nights sailing around Ha Long bay - about 3-4 hours drive from Hanoi and pretty much a compulsory trip for anyone visiting the city.
The attraction of the bay is that it contains nearly 2,000 limestone islands, or karsts, that rise often vertically from the sea. Many are topped by dense jungle and being limestone are eroded into weird shapes. There are also a number of caves. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
We were on a 'junk' - one of several hundred cruising the bay at any one time and sharing it with local fisherman and large freighters coming in and out of Haiphong, Vietnam's third biggest city, so it's hardly a wilderness experience. Nonetheless it is a spectacular place even in the grey haze that covered it for much of the time we were there. And it was good to be out of the noise and pollution of Hanoi.
Not that we weren't kept busy with visits to a cave, kayaking, climbing up to a pagoda on top of one of the islands, swimming, fishing for squid, having cookery classes and doing tai-chi at 6.30 in the morning. The food was fantastic with 5 or 6 courses at every meal. Best of all was that no one in our group could be persuaded to do the karaoke.
Now we're back in Hanoi doing a little shopping and getting ready to get the train to Saigon (as most people still call it) tonight. Two nights on the train and then we're supposed to be off cycling to Angkor Wat for the remaining 12 days of our trip. As temperatures in Saigon and Angkor Wat are reaching 37 deg that is going to be quite a challenge. Neither of us have cycled in a sauna before.