Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Saturday in Vietnam

Erik and I ate an early breakfast at a little place we found outside our hotel called The Kitchen, which served western breakfast. We changed a little money at the desk (if you call 1,600,000 dong a little, which it kind of is), then we scooted as fast as we could down to the travel agency fearing we would miss our bus. Then we waited for 1/2 hour. The bus wasn't the luxury vehicle we imagined, and we were stuck in the back seat with a Vietnamese family for 3 hours, but seeing the Vietnamese countryside was interesting. If you've ever seen the famous picture of the little girl burning from napalm during the war, you have an idea of what it looks like - open fields broken by cement buildings, usually 3 or 4 stories high. We passed several villages before we stopped at a large store run by the children of war victims. I wondered a lot while I was there how the Vietnamese feel about Americans. There were few of us there - most foreigners were from elsewhere. Every old person made me wonder what memories were stored up in their minds.

We landed at HaLong Bay around noon and climbed aboard our ship, which did not possess the white lounge chairs we were promised. Still, we were able to enjoy the view and the breeze from the top as we navigated through "so many beautiful islands" as our guide kept reminding us, jutting out of the sea. HaLong Bay means "descending dragon bay" for reasons that aren't clear to me due to our tour guide's heavy accent. He said he was previously a college professor, now he's a tour guide, but next year he'll be a lawyer. Being a lawyer pays about the same as tour guide he said - roughly $1,000 US a month.

We docked at one larger island and took a cave tour. Then the best part, we turned around and stopped at a floating fishing village - these people live on the water all the time! - where we spent an hour sea kayaking around the islands. I love my life.

The ride back felt longer, especially since when we pulled into Hanoi we saw the bus pass our street, then proceed to drop off everyone else except a man and his son, which took more than 1/2 hour. Using our trusty GPS we found our way back to the hotel and collapsed into bed. All in all, a fascinating day. I'm glad we took the time to see something outside of the city.

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