Thursday, October 18, 2007

North Vietnam

Helen and I trekked in the wonderful little town of Sapa. The former French hill station, scenically set in the mountains, is a nice little getaway for the residents of Hanoi and tourists seeking peace from the traffic, crowds, and heat of Vietnam. We took a guided hiking tour the day after we arrived through a nearby valley.

Earlier that morning, we found an all you can eat breakfast, mixed Vietnamese and Western, for $2.50. Check out the view from our seats on the outside patio!:

After two much needed restful days in Sapa, we took the overnight train to Hanoi which was quite luxurious and a totally different experience from riding the overnight bus! Hanoi is quite crowded and the traffic and noise can be a real turn off. We did all the usual tourist stuff there and found some good vietnamese restaurants. Below is a picture I took on the return trip from the Museum of Vietnamese Ethnography -- from the back of our moto-taxi:

Yes, Vietnam is the land of the motorbike and this is how you get around. When I left Hanoi, the hotel provided me with a free taxi since I purchased my train ticket there -- but I was surprised when a motorcycle pulled up. Yep, I rode on the back of the moto with all my gear on my back. Now, writing this from Saigon, I think nothing of this and ride moto taxis all the time.

After a few days in Hanoi, we arranged a 3 day tour to beautiful Ha Long Bay ($72 including everything except drinks):

My birthday came on this trip and I spent that morning swimming off our anchored boat in the most scenic destination possible. It was great! So far, Ha Long Bay is definitely the highlight of the trip.

Sadly, Helen must leave and go back home now. We had a great trip together and it was so nice of Helen to show me around her home country of China. But it will be just me, traveling all by myself, from now until my friend Dave joins me in Singapore in late November. I am more than a little tentative about traveling by myself. . . more to come on this subject later!

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