Hanoi & Halong Bay

StrictlyNormal Travel Department

 2006 - Andria Thomas & Aaron Datesman Random Creative Pursuits. All rights reserved.

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, located in the far north of the country.  So far north, in fact,that we took a flight from Hue to get there rather than endure 20+ hours of bus rides.  Once there, we stayed in the historic Old Town, a tight mesh of blocks where very narrow and tall rowhouses are separated by crowds of people selling food and local beer (bia hoi) on the sidewalks, and the streets are chock full of people walking in constant danger of being run over by the everpresent motorcycles and cars.  Unfortunately, none of that really conveyed well in pictures. 

Below is a bridge leading to a shrine in the center of Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, and beside that is a picture of the mandarin stelae in the Temple of Literature.  The Temple was a center of learning, and the stelae contain the names of 1300+ high-level mandarins (essentially doctorate holders), which is interesting primarily because it made Aaron (our own personal doctorate holder!) wish that his name was inscribed on a stone sitting on a giant turtle.  Maybe for Christmas next year...

Halong Bay and Cat Ba National Park:  Below is a small portion of the hundreds of pictures we took of the rock island formations in Halong Bay and Cat Ba National Park.  The two areas are actually both part of the same bay, but Cat Ba is a nationally protected area where the rock formations are fewer and more spread out. 

We ended our trip in Vietnam with a three-day sea kayaking trip in Cat Ba, followed by a night on Cat Ba island and a night on a luxury Chinese Junk sailing leisurely through Halong Bay.

Cat Ba National Park:  The bungalows on a rock formation which served as a base camp for our sea kayaking.  We had the entire place to ourselves, except for our guide and the chef who served us multiple course meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Clearly we should have started our vacation here...and stayed here for the entire month.

A lagoon we entered through a 200 meter-long cave.  Paddling in was difficult with the low ceiling and current flowing the other way (due to the receding tide), but it was clearly worth it.
One of several villages established on the bay.  The larger villages have schools and their own pagodas, and they all make their living from fish farms, pearl farming, or similar work.  Many houses have televisions (powered via generators) and almost all had dogs which yapped at us and ran across planks from one floating house to another.