|The North, Vietnam - super marathon and achy jaws|
The city is very amiable to
live in, very pleasant. It was comforting to see young couples kissing
and playing round the lake in the center of the old town at night.
After a couple of days enjoying
the city, the marathon started. Looking at the best ways to do our exploration
of Vietnam, we soon realized how difficult it would be to do it "off the
Government air-con minibuses with guide of up to 12 people capacity pick you up at 6am (national communist waking up time) and take you to the main spots, throw you off for a while and pick the herd up again and so on. Exhausting.
First we went to northeast Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island for 2 days. Amazing sea rock formations and grottoes all the way on a boat.
Sapa Hill tribe village. Northwest
treasure of Vietnam ethnic richness. Four days (with cold nights. Hurray!)
getting up at 6am to go trekking in the bordering China high mountains
and visiting the enchanting wild and colorful hill tribes called "the
minority people" by the Vietnamese.
The night before the longest
trek I got really drunk with some Australians and lots of Vietnamese wine.
Nest day was a bit of a hell going up and down mountains and beautiful
Back in Hanoi, our impression of the country so far was so positive, we decided to give Vietnam one month instead of the planned two weeks.
Hanoi, the capitol city in North Vietnam had an almost temperate climate in March/April which was welcome after Thailand's heat. We taxied from the airport to a hotel in the city, 15 USD got us a grand room with plush teak furnishings and a groovy bathroom. Hanoi itself was quite a relaxed place with pleasant architecture and much greenery and many lakes. The Old quarter in which we stayed was a myriad of small market streets each one dedicated to a particular trade and were named such: shoe street, fish street, hat street etc.
a tight schedule we booked a couple of tourist trips around the region.
The first was a 2 day boat trip to the northeast to see the many small
island thingies with lots of caves and grottoes. Most of the time was
spent on the boat itself just getting there but that was nice enough as
the scenery was quite spectacular.
Back in Hanoi we decided to extend our 2 week stay to a month - Vietnam is not as difficult as I thought it would be, the people were very friendly and we wouldn't have to rush about as much.
On our last afternoon in Hanoi we visited the Airforce museum - lots of rusting Migs outside and exhibitions about the brave VC pilots and how many US aircraft they shot down. It was interesting to see the way the Vietnamese perceive what they call the "U.S." war. We we to see more of this as we traveled south.