Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Halong Bay

Tim Bev Carolyn David

Some of the Cooks artwork

Halong Bay

The Lagoon Explorer II, our boat and one of the smallest of this companies fleet of seven junks
The one that is smaller has a crew of 4 and takes one couple as passengers.

The town is right up against the limestone rock

This very young man stopped his rowing to give us a wave

Our friend David checks on a students work

Tim and Bev enjoy the view from our deck lounge chairs

Fishing boats
Our vietnamese boat paddler

We had all our meals out on deck

Halong Bay is one of the most magnificant natural splendours of Asia. We visited this beautiful site while on fall vacation in Vietnam. The boat we spent two days on board was a Chinese junk style boat. It included six crew members to cook, navigate, clean and take care of its six passengers. Our fabulous experience included swimmingoff the boat, relaxing on the sun deck kayaking from the boat, top-notch seven course meals expertly prepared from fresh seafood, fruits and signature vietnamese dishes. The pleasurable experience came with an elegant en-suite cabin, complete with yellow sails. We had the rare opportunity to tour sea caves, discovered in 1999, until then used only by fishermen. Halong Bay is home to a floating village of vietnamee families that are fishermen and make their living on boats along the bay.

We were allowed the rare opportunity of touring a houseboat floating school complete with a teacher and children. They row their boats to and from school each day . We were ushered into the floating village by a young vietnamese woman rowing a typical long boat. It carried all four of us, through the protected village among the rocks, safe from storms and typhoons. The supply boat carries groceries and household goods from house to house that families buy each week. The fishermen were twisiting and reeling their nets, children were playing, and uniquely every house had a dog for protection. The Bay is full of freshwater fish, oyster farms, and more. The only way to access this city is by boat, for medical or other needs the children learn at a very early age the necessary skill of rowing a boat. Each housboat was a differentpastel color, had beautiful specilized decorations, and the daily tasks of life like washing was evident on our short trip through town.

There are over 3,000 limestone islands jutting out of emerald green water. There are secluded coves, coral beaches, and hidden lagoons in Halong Bay. Our very brief glimpse begs us to someday return for an unlimited amount of time to this world heritage site

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sapa, Vietnam

Young boy had been playing with his top.

Wearing traditional clothing we were greeted very early, 7:00 a.m. by female members of the Black H'mong ethnic group. Each one show us there goods just a foot away on the other side of the window of the cafe. "The sweet "Buy from me" chant was grating by the end of the day.

To get to Sapa we traveled by train. Almost the only way to get to Sapa, 223 miles northwest of Hanoi is to board a late night 8:30 p.m. train and get a soft sleeper with Air Conditioning. Ariving in La Cai at 5:30 a.m. we found a mini van with a guide and driver. In the dark we thought we were leaving town for Sapa but found ourselves at a very dark and closed gas station. After waking the sleeping guard, who woke the neigboring owner, who was able to turn on the pump, we got our 2 liters of gas to bring us right off of empty and proceed up the mountain to Sapa, which has lied forgotten for over half a century and was re-discoved in the early 1990's.

Originally French Sapa is the home to the tourist trade that travel to see some of the 5 ethnic groups that live close to town: Black H'mong 52%, Rwd Dao 25%, Tay 5%, Giay 2% and a small number of Xa Pho. Each of these ethnic groups is distinct in clothing, customs, and dialect. The things that they sell and the general facial features are unique by group. The groups do not mix and generally marry within there group. We found that the men tend the rice patties when needed and drive motorcyles. Some men stayed home with the children the day we visited because the weather had kept them out of the fields. The women take care of the children and they have many starting as young as 13-14, as well as make and sell goods primarily cloth based items. All the people we encountered were women or children. They all could speak English fairly well. Bev and I walked about 2 hours through the Black H'mong's hillside and community, despite the poor weather.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Destination Vietnam

David, Carolyn, Bev, Tim in Sapa, Vietnam on a misty rainy day.

Pineapple for sale

Pedicabs, Bev and I did one of these together,
which put a real strain on the skinny peddler.

Our Grilled Fish

David and Carolyn on a cool morning in
Sapa waiting for our coffee after an all night train ride.

Procedure to make the conical hats which you can purchase for about $1. US

Just down the street from our hotel sat this gentleman having a morning drink

Everything is moved by moped, this is a very typical biker

The rumble of a million motorbikes, the cries of hawkers and the buzz of business transactions are as ever-present as the tinkle of the past in the pagodas, and the swish of the scythe in the rice paddies in Vietnam.

Bev and I traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam this last week for a vacation during the Chinese Fall Festival celebration. We traveled with one other couple, David and Carolyn from New Zealand and met another couple also from the school.

We had an amazing week and I will share some of the pictures during the next week on the blog.

Modern Asia meets medieval Asia and, in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, the two become one, this where we stayed while in Hanoi. Every corner, shop and street business was a photograph waiting to be taken.

For culinary adventurers, Vietnam is a treasure trove of more than 500 different dishes.
It’s a wonderful world of pungent herbs and secret spices. Dip delicate spring rolls in nuoc
mam, a fish sauce that is as compulsory as ketchup for the Vietnamese. Bev and Carolyn took a 3 hour cooking class at a local restaurant. We ate at the up and coming Bobby Chinn's world famous restaurant as well as having lunch at allegedy the oldest restaurant in Hanoi on Cha Ca Street dating back to 1871. Cha Ca Va Vong serves only one set meal the cha ca (grilled fish) cooked at your table, by you, on a clay brazier, with noodles, herbs and peanuts. Very tasty.

It was hard for me to believe that 35 years ago I was scared to death that I would be sent off to Nam, and extremely thankful when my lottery number was so high that it would never come into play in the draft for more American soldiers.

For us it was hard to believe our senses, as we discovered one of the most enriching, enlivening and exotic countries on earth, the sights, sounds and smells were very different from any other Asian country.

Destination Vietnam