After a week or so in the quiet and more tranquil northern part of Vietnam, we found ourselves suddenly being thrust into the buzzing and very loud capital of Hanoi. What a contrast! We arrived at the train station rather early, 5.30am to be exact. We hung around the station for a while trying to get our bearings, as well as deciding what to do. We knew that looking for a place to stay this early would be a waste of time, so we decided to get ourselves to the Old Quarter, and hang around in a cafe over a slow breakfast. At least that way, by the time we started looking for a place to stay, some others might be checking out, thus giving us the opportunity to check in.
Later that afternoon, we went to Cat Ba Island, the largest island in Halong Bay, where we would be spending the night in a hotel. Once we had left our stuff at the appropriate hotel, and had some lunch, those of us who wanted to were taken on a two hour trek with a local guide. Although not a long walk, the incline was rather steep and the views of the island and the surrounding sea were spectacular. The views, including the craggy and asperous peaks jutting out from the jungle-clad island were intoxicating! The next day mainly constituted getting back to Hanoi. I know that we had been part of it, but I could not help but be flabbergasted by the constant stream of people waiting to get onto their boat, and thus their tour.
Dedication: I would like to dedicate this to everyone at Thu Giang Guesthouse. To Ha for being a brilliant “mum”. Thanks for your hugs, for being sincere and honest, for being so helpful, and for buying me tofu! To Tao (dad), for your smiles, friendliness and help. You showed us Tao that communication goes far beyond the spoken word. To Giang, for our wonderful, open conversations and of course your help. To Hien – you crazy, funny girl! Thanks for making me laugh and for always helping out. To Ly, my little Vietnamese sister. No task was too hard! You were patient and kind, and respectful, and for that you will always occupy a special place in my heart. And finally to one of the “unsung heroes”, Lien. Lien, you spoke little English, but you always had a warm smile and touch. I know that we could not converse much, but I am sure that our hearts communicated. I want you to know how much I appreciated everything you did, from the coffees you made to cleaning our room. Thank you again to each and every on of you for showing us a magical part of Vietnam and its people! You are the jewels in Vietnam’s crown!
(Photos: 1.- The stampeding motorbikes of Hanoi. 2.- The conical hats which are a Vietnamese institution. 3.- Hanoi’s old quarter. 4.- The….umm, Vietnamese flag! 5.- Incense and dragons, inside one of Hanoi’s many temples. 6.- Ombi & (Co) Ha. 7.- Hoan Kiem Lake by night. 8.- Vietnamese dong, the country’s currency. 9.- Water Puppet Show, Hanoi. 10.- Munching on some local food in one of Hanoi’s many, tiny alley ways. L to R: Celeste, Andres, Joyjoy, Rama, Thierry and moi! 11.- Halong Bay. 12.- Halong Bay and its many visitors. 13.- Kayaking in Halong Bay. 14.- View of Halong Bay from Cat Ba Island. 15.- Sisters are doing it for themselves! L to R: Mai, Ombi & Ly. 16.- Saying goodbye to my little sister, Ly. 17.- The gang at Thu Giang, with (Co) Ha and (Thu) Tao in the centre.)