Sunday, March 4, 2007

Bumper Boats

So, now that I've given you all the overview of the country from my eyes, it's time to begin with the travelogue. . .

Our journey through Vietnam began in Hanoi. The Spaniard's friend graciously offered to host us in her apartment before traveling with us through the center of the country for Tet (or Vietnamese Lunar New Year). She was a great travel companion and helped us book various tours, hostels, and plane tickets which made our journey so much easier. She was also able to give us a bit of perspective on the country given her work for the World Bank.

However we weren't in Hanoi for long before we were on a trip to Halong Bay (which she booked for us) which is a little over 100kms away from Hanoi. Sounds like it’s close huh? Well given that the highway is not that good and it’s choked with motos, the trip takes about 3 hours by bus.
However, it’s worth the journey because it is a beautiful bay punctuated by hundreds of small limestone outcrops jutting vertically out of the ocean. The only way to see the bay is via a cruise, and the most popular option is a 2 day 1 night cruise on board a junk-looking vessel that includes everythingbut drinks. The tour was a pricey(by Vietnam standards) at US$39 per person . Here is the postcard scene of the bay. . .

However that beauty does attract a crowd, and there were tons of boats at every destination we went to. Add to that the lax regulations and it was kind of a free-for-all. At the various dock we would occasionally bump into the other boats as we tried to muscle in to the docks. Here's us nonchalantly drifting into our neighbors.

Despite the efforts, we'd often still be 4 boats away from the dock and we'd have to climb from boat to boat to get off and on. (Our boat is the one on the second from the right)

The various ports of calls that required me to bust out my nautical gymnastic moves allowed us to kayak, visit caves, climb to the top of the islands for the views, and go to the beach. After travelling through cities, communing with nature was very nice.However, it wasn't a complete escape as we still had to us to hear the pitches of locals looking to sell us something. However given the relative isolation of the bay I had to give them credit. In many ways it was the picture of entrepreneurship.
Yes both the Spaniard and I entered another country that's nominally communist despite the best efforts of their citizens. . .

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