Hanoi & Ha Long Bay North Vietnam
Up at 4am - left Bangkok in 30 degrees, arived Hanoi 90 míns later in their winter - 10 degrees and raining. We were walking around in T shirts and shorts whilst the rést òf the population werre wrapped up in winter clothes.
Not to be deterred we set off immediately for the Mausoleum with our guide for the day - unfortunately he timed it so that we arrived just as they were closing - so we missed seeing the revered Ho Chi Minh in his glass coffin. We are told thought that he looks quite .... dead! Visited a museum to sêe the cultures òf the 35 diferent Vietnamese ethnic groups, then to the temple to Cònfucius (managed to keep Andrew from blurtiing out his one & only Confucianism "Man with hole in pocket feel cocky all day". Then on to a water puppet show which sounds corny but was great. Back to the hotel through the crazy traffic by Kamikaze bicycle rickshaws - we saw 2 accidents including a man and women swapping blows in the middle òf the road whilst the trafic was swerving around them on both sides.
Yesterday we took the 3 hour drive to Ha Long Bay with the obligatory stop at lacquerware shop. We were warned on the way that they pile as many people together on each boat so when we boarded our junk we thought that they múst have got our bookings muddled up as the only other people on board were an Australian couple - Chassa & Bill who owned a film production company. The boat was magnificent, so luxurious with our own private jacuzzi, four delightful crew waiting on ús hand and foot and fantastic meals. We felt like royalty.
Ha Long Bay ís simply awesome, thousands òf tiny íslands, limestones rocks rising out òf the sea some with caves we visited. Fantastic waking up in the morning watching the islands ás we sailed by.
Vietnam feels & looks quite different from Thailand & Malaysia. Lots of tall thin houses, only a few feet wide but some 6 storeys high, prettily painted. Much less evidence of religion, probably a result of the quasi Communism & people too busy just trying to earn a living. With no free health care or education and no state benefits or pension life is pretty tough.
We are staying in a nice (tall thin!) hotel in the old Quarter. The city ís cháotic with thousands òf motor bikes and mopeds carying everything from chickens to furniture & no discretion to which side òf the road they drive on. It must have beên wonderful 10 years ago when it was just bikes & rickshaws. This part of the city is a maze of tiny streets, very búsy with ladies in conical háts selling their wares from panniers & lots of pavement cooking & eating.
We did feel briefly guilty today realising that all you guys are back at work, hope all is OK(ish) .... & boys hope you are studying hard for exams?!
Writing this listening to 'White Christmas'. Off to bed shortly as an early start tomorrow when we leave for Vientiane in Láos - yet another currency to contend with!