An elegant sufficiency

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What a day!

We have had quite a day! We were up at 6.30am in spite of jetlag that made us want to sleep till lunchtime...but hey, who said being on holiday is easy?!

After breakfast our guide - let's call her Zoom because I had no idea how to write her Vietnamese name - met us and we drove to Halong Bay, a World Heritage Site which everyone had said was fantastic. It's a 3 hour drive though, which is why we needed the early start.

Along the way, we had a "comfort stop" - really a "tourist rip off stop" at the "Serenity, Humanity, Beauty" workshops for disabled youngsters. Serried ranks of young people were working on what looked like pretty mindnumbing tasks. Those in the photo below were putting in single stitches in fine silk into a colour-by-numbers picture - huge areas of flat colour and nothing at all like the Chinese embroidery of similar nature. They were also cutting gemstones, doing lacquer work and dressmaking. All pretty grim as far as we were concerned.

We arrived at Halong Bay around 11.45 to catch our 12 noon boat. So did hundreds of others, so we left Zoom to get on with it and stood and watched the free show! Very entertaining it was too.

Not quite as entertaining as our faces, however, when Zoom returned and identified our boat as the one four or five boats away from the pier! We joined much of Europe in jumping up and over the boats in between and shuffled alongside to make our way across to the "Hai Long Dream (12)"
I have no idea how he did it, but our Captain squeezed out from between the others and we were soon on our way to the first stop - the Celestial Cave. Amazing stalagmites and stalagtites in there, no bats in the daytime (thank goodness) and lots of old stories about the rock formations in these caves which were only discovered in 1993. Yes, work that one out for yourself!!

Out and back to our junk, which was waiting for us on the other side of the hill. As you can see, it was getting near afternoon nap time for some!
We settled down to a freshly cooked seafood lunch - yum - and sailed around the bay, in and out of the rock formations, many of which had names to suggest the picture they made. So, we went past the duck, the kissing dogs, the dragon - or two!

We went with several other junks through the fishermans village which will be very familiar if you've got/seen Kaffe Fassetts Colourful Journey Video of his Vietnamese travels. (Can recommend that one and will add a link later)

Time to drive home through the paddy fields, back to Hanoi. Loads of brick kilns in this area, on the horizon as you can see.

Lots of mopeds again as we joined the rush hour of workers going home after their day's work at the Canon factory.

Most intriguing load of the day? A live sow, strapped into the basket at the back of this moped. Wriggle if you dare!!

Going to see more of the city tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll be able to give you a better idea of what Hanoi really looks like!

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