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Hanoi Value Menu

Hanoi, Vietnam


Ahhh, Hanoi. This is the Asia everyone dreams about when they think of modern Asia. Motorbikes everywhere, dodging traffic, jumping over heaping piles of trash, and swerving from spitballs, Hanoi has it all. Residents of Hanoi were smart to leave intact the remnants of the French colonization period. The French architecture clashed in a beautiful way against the tropical climate. Everywhere people have plants in their apartments that adds a tropical vibe to the city. Another thing to mention are the power lines that blanket the city. Apparently, North Vietnam has not been introduced to underground fiber-optic cable.
After arriving in Hanoi last Monday we decided to get out of the city and trek to the Gulf of Tonkin and visit Halong Bay. There are close to 2,000 islands in this archipelago. It's a UNESCO world heritage site for a reason. It's easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Hopefully, we can get some pictures up in the next couple of days. The first night we cruised through the islands on a boat complete with a dining area and cabins on the lower level. We went to a cave, went kayaking, then anchored nearby to stay the night.
The next day we went to an island where we set off biking. Shortly after we started I helped push a broken down truck filled with sand along with maybe 8 other Vietnamese people to the side of the road. The island we stayed at had been a popular target for aerial bombing campaigns during the Vietnam war. We climbed to an area where North Vietnamese kept watch for bombing raids that were flying to Hanoi. There we had great views of the bay. Unfortunately, the top was infested with mosquitoes so we didn't stay long. Our guide that led us to the top of the mountain might have been a Viet Cong soldier himself. He was genuinely nice to us and the rest of the group. Our other tour guide told us that the North Vietnamese like Americans and don't hold the war against us because of all the protests they saw during the war. That could be true but he might have just been angling for a tip.
After the strenuous hike with our Swedish companions we biked back to the boat. The group that was on the tour with us ended up being very nice. There were 3 Swedish people that were extremely nice. Two of them were a couple in their 60's that were retired teachers. Even at their age they were able to hike a mountain that was difficult for Rachel and I. I hope were in that good of shape when I'm that age.
Then we went to a beach bungalow where we would spend the night. We went kayaking again for a bit but we were too tired to spend much time on the water after the exhausting hike. After a low key evening we retired but not before putting up a mosquito net.
Early the next morning, we rode on a rickety boat a good distance away to meet up with the rest of our tour group. They welcomed us back and we crept back to Halong City. I didn't expect much since we went on a tour group but I'm sure it will be a highlight of our trip.
Yesterday we got shutout of the museums since it was a Monday so we bummed around, took a walk by one of the lakes and caught up on the internet. I almost got burned by flying sparks from a welder on the sidewalk and then we had some great pizza at an Italian restaurant next to Hoam Kiem lake in the Old Quarter.
Last night we hopped on a night train to Sapa and arrived here a couple of hours ago. The touts that were waiting outside were some of the pushiest, nastiest salespeople we've encountered so far. One nice foreigner told us the right price to pay for a bus to Sapa and one of the people slammed his shoulder and yelled at him. We got a hotel room with a balcony and an amazing view. It's not called Mountain View hotel for nothing. It was raining here but the sun is starting to shine so were going to go tour the city. Peace.

Zack

permalink written by  zachel on March 30, 2009 from Hanoi, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
tagged HalongBay, Hanoi and Sapa

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