Thursday, April 14, 2011

Monday and Tuesday, April 4 and 5, 2011 (Hanoi, Ha Long Bay)

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: We had another nail-ripping, head-scratching, breath-freezing drive in Vietnam, this one was outside of the city--heading from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. (Oh, how we longed for the serenity of Tremont and Boylston....) Ha Long Bay is indescribable, so I won't bother. The drive up there was pretty indescribable, too, but I'll go ahead and say something about it. At one point we encountered a boy and his water buffalo (?) sploshing their way through some farmland near the road. He stood up on the back of the beast, presumably for our benefit (above). I took the obligatory three photos. We also saw numerous vendors on the side of the road selling right-out-of-the-oven baguettes. We also saw 4,723 traffic laws broken--NONE by us, of course. Most involved misdeeds such as improper lane change, violent lane change, lane change with intent to maim, lane change with intent to say "hi" to a friend, failure to properly signal, failure to improperly signal, passing on the right, passing on the right and making school kids scatter, passing on the left over a solid line, passing on the left over a solid median, passing on the left over an irrigation ditch.
We saw a motorbike carrying massive porcelain pieces (right). We also saw one carrying a COW. That's right. A COW (laid on its side, draped over the "passenger seat", probably in a state of shock). OK, maybe it was a calf, but it was a big calf. Probably hoping to get to the slaughterhouse in one piece.
One rule of the Vietnam roadway, according to our guide, Minh: "Bigger is the law." The larger the vehicle, the greater the right of way.
Another piece of roadside wit and wisdom from Minh, regarding motorbike riders and mirrors: "They put the mirrors on the bike so they can see their own face. They don't care what's happening behind them."

A FLOATING VILLAGE AT HA LONG BAY: We enjoyed an overnight stay on Ha Long Bay on a boat that could accommodate about 20 guests plus a crew. One of the first things we did was motor to the southeast from the takeoff point on Tuan Chau Island and head toward Cua Van, one of (I think) four floating fishing villages. There we were greeted by numerous boats with vendors offering items such as beer and Pringles. (One floating convenience store included the charming salesgirl pictured at right.)
Sandy and I had a 45-minute kayak excursion around an island. All went smoothly. We were a bit disconcerted by something that bore a strong resemblance to a NOOSE hanging from a branch on the dark side of one of the numerous limestone islands. We churned up the quiet bay pretty well as we scuttled back to the boat.
The tour boat was well equipped. The food was great, and it was presented well. The creation pictured at the right is an example (with dragon fruit--or pitaya--providing the lips and teeth of the fish).
On Tuesday, the boat took us to the limestone Sung Sot Cave.
The drive back to Hanoi was quite a bit less adventuresome because we did it during lunchtime. The roads were much less crowded. We did enjoy the time on the water (below), where traffic was minimal.

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