On the Road (and sea) in Vietnam
On the way to Cat Ba Island in Halong Bay, Vietnam
October 26 -- We're just back from three days in Halong Bay and Cat Ba National Park, a pretty little area on the South China Sea about four hours northeast of Hanoi.  Even in the countryside, Vietnam is a pretty darn busy place.  The traffic in this country makes Mexican drivers look reserved and polite.  We did get in a couple of boat cruises, though, and that was lots of fun.

Halong Bay is another one of those World Heritage Sites, with about 3000 beautiful and unusual little islands.  The mountains here are a challenging climb, so getting to the top of just one of them was enough of a workout for us.  We spent one night on the boat, along with ten other passengers who had come across the bay with us.  Among them were two young guys from Iceland, university students who Carol tried to convince to become tree planters in Canada.

It was warm and calm night on the boat.  The crew made us a nice little supper, and most of the other folks decided to sleep out on the upper deck.  We moored in a little inlet on Cat Ba Island with four or five other tour boats.  We got a great moonrise over the surrounding rocks later in the evening, a few clouds and a bit of a glow. It was the rock formations themselves, the vertical limestone spires with their caves and stone bridges, that continually impressed us.  There didn't seem to be much horizontal ground at all, so most of the local fishermen live on floating villages, always close to their livelihood.  There was even a floating school in one of the villages we passed by.
After our night on the boat we did a half day trek in Cat Ba National Park and climbed one of those limestone spires.  Although there was a reasonable trail, we were hauling ourselves up the rock face at the end.  One peak was plenty for that day.

A highlight of the trip though was running into our friends Krista and Jules in Halong City.  Krista, who's from Whistler, British Columbia, was on the plane with us from Seoul to Bangkok, and we spent some time together when we first got to Thailand.  She and Jules were traveling a different route and we hadn't seen them in six weeks.  It is indeed a small world.


October 22 -- So here we are in Vietnam.  Goodbye Beerlao, hello Tiger Beer.  Tonight we had dinner on the second floor terrace of the Peace Café (like, where else?) in Hanoi.  We had found probably the only quiet street in the entire city and this was good.  Cyclo drivers down below kept calling up to get us to commit to a ride back to our hotel.  The cyclo was the local bicycle-powered version of the Asian tuk-tuk.  We did our best to ignore them as we generally preferred walking about.

The TV set in the corner was showing John Candy’s film Cool Running in some language with Thai subtitles.  You didn't have to hear it, the visuals were enough.  This was the film about the Jamaican bobsleigh team at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.  Actually, I'd never seen it, so this was great!  We had been to those Olympics, and to the four-man bobsleigh finals.  We'd photographed the Jamaicans just seconds before they crashed.  This was all very appropriate.

It was also our first taste of Vietnamese fresh rolls.  We'd had the classic deep-fried spring rolls earlier in the day, for lunch.  They were both okay, but nothing fancy.  We’ll have to keep looking.  Spring rolls are on every menu here and that's just fine with us.


Random notes:  Although the Internet has reached some pretty remote parts of the world, being able to upload files to our web site has often been somewhat challenging.  Regular updates have instead become periodic, and in the meantime we've also got a lot of country (and countries) to explore.  It's been an adventure.  Keep checking in...
 
 
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The geography of Halong Bay is so challenging that local fishermen have established floating villages on several inlets. 
Tour boats on Halong Bay
Tour boats on Halong Bay carried about 25 passengers.  Our boat had a kitchen and bar, with six small cabins.
Sunset on Halong Bay