Guest Blog – Jeff & Stacy do SE Asia (19 of 40)

now departing the bay of halong city

now departing the bay of halong city

startin the boat tour…
“it’s amazing, our seventh day here in hanoi and we’re still walking down little streets and alleys we hadn’t done before… something always new!

we departed from the old quarter on friday the 13th to halong bay, which in vietnamese means, ‘descent of the dragon’ because if you were to fly over the bay, all the islands would look like a dragon…but from the boat it’s hard to tell.

view of the bay

view of the bay

the book actually recommends taking a tour to do halong bay because it’s just too complicated and expensive to do it on your own.  so after a day devoted to finding the REAL tourist companies that are listed in the book, we had a better idea on what we wanted.

we settled on a $53 each tour, three days two nights, one night on the boat, the other on the only inhabited island, cat ba.  we were tempted to go for a higher priced tour guaranteeing more kayaking and boating, less island, but after all was said and done, we figured it’s all the same bay, so lets save a buck.  all tours are ‘all inclusive’ minus drinks.

jeff on deck

jeff on deck

we left at 8:30am in a short bus with 18 other tourists and our tour guide van whee.  as our trip began, our lovable crazy tour guide began his orientation to us in his best english that was very hilarious and slightly frustrating.  we did learn some history of hanoi, traffic laws, history of halong and that he called the bathroom the ‘happy room’ cause you always come out happier… usually true.

after 3 hours we arrived at the harbor of halong city.  not much to see thus far.  plus it’s slightly misty/foggy so our sight could only go so far.  but the city itself is highrises, big bridges, not much to see.

we were loaded on our junk (that’s what they call a boat) and off we went!

more about the boar trip later…..”

nice weather, eh?

nice weather, eh?

stacy on deck

stacy on deck

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (18 of 40)

ho chi minh statue

ho chi minh statue

uncle ho…
today we saw uncle ho.  really we saw him in his own flesh…. embalmed of course.  at the ho chi minh mausoleum, you stand in this thick long line for about thirty minutes and you swiftly move along the outside until you reach the ‘lotus building‘ what looks like a square with pillars, and you silently enter in and weave around to where he rests…. a big, ornamental, glass coffin, resting with his hand layed upon his chest, ‘peacefully sleeping’.  you walk steady around and past him as well as the 6 manikin-like guards beside him, and then out you go.  through this there’s no pictures, bags, anything – you check all that in.  it’s a free sight, as many pilgrimages here often are.  pretty crazy, don’t know how often we’ll see something like that in our lives.  uncle ho wanted to be cremated, but after his death, his followers thought only fit to follow suit of lenin and stalin and embalm him…. crazy stuff.

breakdancers

breakdancers

after this we had our first real pho experience.  this one was pho bo (beef noodle soup, at least we hope, as we did see more fido being offered just up the street, in a real restaurant in the open )…. the grandma, lookin pretty damn old, sat us down and with no words exchanged. we saw her grab a wad of raw minced beef, throw it in a woven basket spoon, hold it in the boiling water, then dump it atop rice noodles with fresh chives, pepper , salt, and poured over a broth, and then placed these plentiful bowls in front.  that was good enough for us, we thought…. then she grabbed a plate of chicken, a plate of spring rolls and meatball things, a bowl of fresh greens (mint, coriander, lettuce), a jar of garlic, and a spicy soy sauce concoction, and began serving away…. she took much of each and dipped it in one sauce and then threw it all on top of our bowls…it was actually outrageous.  so much food and flavors and really good – as long as you didn’t look too close as what was in the meatballs or the spring rolls…..i’m sure it was all okay to eat  ; )  chased down with two room temp canned heineken, and quite a meal.  we seriously felt like we were hansel and gretal at the candy house, she would NOT stop giving us chow… after we got across we couldn’t eat anymore pho, she had her sweet smiley granddaughter clear our plates… then the bananas came out and the hot tea… we just couldn’t get enough i guess.  by this time jeff and i are cracking up at how she just won’t let down… but we know, there’s gonna be a price to it all.  and of course, she then asks for $200,000 dong (15 bucks about….) and we’re like hell no.  we figured it probably should have been around 80,000 dong, so we left her 100,000 and walked away with her shouting at us.  we passed by her again later and waved and it was all smiles

evening excercise

evening excercise

after pho time, we went to the temple of literature, the 1st school in vietnam, built in 1075 i believe.  very cool old buildings and beautiful property.

vietnam doesn’t seem to have much if any copyright laws.  the book says it’s in the works but, for now, anything goes.  so what this means is if you have one successful restaurant, hotel, tour company, store of any kind, there will be at least 10 copy cats anywhere, even if it means all 10 are lined up right next door.  it’s hilariously frustrating when you’re looking for the right one, or just trying not to go in circles when, around every corner, you see the same names…. if we’re looking for something out of the book then we just make sure the addresses really match up.  and speaking of books, we bought two:  lonely planet vietnam and mr. nice (aussie book), and both are photocopies! the covers are photocopied on hard back so you would never know… its crazy out here!

the pho shebang

the 'pho' shebang

tomorrow we head to halong bay for 3 days on a junk (boat) and to stay on an island…. should be cool!  the weather is warm to cool with a slight mist, so it’s almost perfect.  the first day we didn’t have any mist and it was perfect, but still, the mist is just that, there’s no wind, so calm seas should lie ahead….

xxxoo jeff and stacy

pho grandma and prodigy

pho grandma and prodigy

temple of literature enterance

temple of literature enterance

hello!

hello!

literature grounds

literature grounds

doctorines plaques

'doctorines' plaques

music video being filmed

music video being filmed

old

old

incense dragon

incense dragon

cool view

cool view

freaky giant turtle

freaky giant turtle

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (17 of 40)

view of old quarter over hanoi

view of old quarter over hanoi

it’s day three in hanoi and we’re still diggin it.  a city of 3 million, its got an amazing amount of character and charm, of course with the daily tourist scams, but we’d be surprised if there weren’t any.

view of lake from cafe

view of lake from cafe

on our first day we walked around ‘old quarter‘ where we’re staying to get our barrings.  first things first – coffee.  the book raves about the coffee here so we gave it a try.  the first cafe we saw was more of a club, but with a fabulous view so we said what the heck.  on the 6th floor balcony we were overlooking the lake on one side and the old quarter on the other.  and the coffee had like 6 shots of espresso, thick espresso, topped off with warm sweet milk, if you like…rip the enamel right off those pearly whites.  this ‘cafe’ was something we could never afford to go to in the states as looked like the swankiest club in vegas…but for us, a mere $5.00 for two coffees and a pineapple/carrot shake…. sure not really on our backpackers budget, but what a view…

strong coffees and shake... notice the carved carrot...

strong coffees and shake... notice the carved carrot...

the old quarter definitely has a french feel to the architecture, but the streets are everything you’d expect of a bustling asian city.  motor bikes, bicycles, and cars, zooming every which way.  horns going off everywhere!  but to tell you the truth, even a blind man could cross the road here, you just gotta keep moving (never stop!) and the traffic weaves around you like a river around a rock.

each street specializes in one thing, be it aluminum materials, silk cloth, musical instruments, chinese lanterns, flowers, plush toys, plastic toys, you name it.  it’s like one giant store and each street serves as an aisle.

the lake we’re at has been here for thousands of years, hanoi itself is something like 545 days until its 1000 year anniversary (there’s banners and billboards countin’ down).

legend has it the dynastic leader at the time, ly, was sent a sword from the gods and defeated the chinese with it, and then a giant turtle

mmm...coffee

mmm...coffee

from this lake came up and grabbed it from his hands, taking it below and returning to the gods

where it came from…. still today there really are giant turtles in the lake, but you only see them maybe once every two years, so consider yourself damn lucky if you do! we did, but embalmed on a temple island on the lake, looks more like a giant seal or something stuffed in a shell….

water puppetry is an ancient form of entertainment, originally started at the rice paddies… the puppets are made from fig trees with dye from foods.  they use a stick to move the puppets from afar, and back in the day, these experienced puppeteers would get water borne diseases. yuck.  puppeteers have at least a minimum of 3 years experience.  now, its done in theatres, clean water, and they wear waders.  we saw it, pretty cool.  check out the pics.

roof tops

roof tops

eel or snake?  in food market, of course!

eel or snake? in food market, of course!

want some bananas?

want some bananas?

what a load

what a load

flowers!

flowers!

flower bike

flower bike

old quarter street corner

old quarter street corner

ancient bridge

ancient bridge

fruit bikes

fruit bikes

house

house

jeff in street

jeff in street

oranges

oranges

jeff lookin like a natural

jeff lookin like a natural

old wall

old wall

old quarter on the lake by night

old quarter on the lake by night

turtle temple island

turtle temple island

pagoda, the symbol of hanoi

pagoda, the symbol of hanoi

tower

tower

cool old trunk

cool old trunk

bridge

bridge

water puppet parade

water puppet parade

the puppet masters

the puppet masters