A Travellerspoint blog

December 2006

Winter Vacation - Hanoi/Halong Bay, Vietnam 2006/12/31

She was thick of fog, I tells ya


View Winter Vacation 2006 on agc_cwm's travel map.

We woke up really early (at about 6:45). I didn't get too much sleep because we were just above a busy street, and I don't think the horns stopped all night; needless to say, we were both pretty cranky. We checked out of our room and sat down to some breakfast. Our Halong Bay guide picked us up at the hotel, making sure we had our passports, and we followed him to the travel agency. We then waited for about a half hour for everyone else from our tour to arrive. We then walked to the bus, where they checked again to ensure everyone had their passports. Turns out that six people in our group didn't have their passports, and two others only had photocopies. We had to drive around Hanoi so we could pick up six passports, which took about an hour. An hour more I could've been in bed.

Our drive to Halong Bay was otherwise uneventful, except our driver was a maniac and passing everything he could. As we were driving, we noticed a few cool things. We had seen many products being carried on racks on the backs of bicycles, but when I saw a rack of nothing but water filled plastic bags with goldfish in them, I wish I had my camera ready. We never saw them again, so we think it must have been a New Year's Eve thing. We also drove by about 8 wedding ceremonies on our way to through Hanoi, which temporarily lifted our spirits out of being frustrated.

When we finally arrived at the slip, we had to wait to find out what boat we were getting on. Then we got on the boat, and we had to wait again for them to do something with our passports. The couple with the photocopies had to get off the boat to make better copies, so we had to wait for that to get done up too. After all the waiting, we finally got moving, 1.5 hours behind schedule. As soon as the boat pulled away from the wharf, we were served a lunch of fish, shrimp, rice and spring rolls. There was a lot of food, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Our first stop on our tour was the "surprising caves". Here we wandered through a series of three caves. Andrew thought the first one was cool, but the second was even cooler. And the third was even cooler than the other two combined. It was massive; it just kept going and going. They had installed coloured lights to illuminate the stalagmites, stalactites, and other rock formations. The rock formations included a "finger" pointing upwards, a turtle, a Buddha, two feet, a tiger, and a snake. I even saw a big bat flying through the cave. Waaay cool.

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Once we left the caves, we made a bee-line for another island with a small (man-made) beach where we could go swimming. Andrew chose to go in for a dip, but I decided to save my swimming for the Philippines. Three guys went in, and the word is that the water wasn't too bad (about 17 °C). We were supposed to stay on the island for about an hour, but it got dark soon after we arrived, so we left after about a half hour. The boat then sailed for the sheltered bay by the caves to drop anchor for the night.

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We were served dinner soon after we arrived in the bay. Again, mass amounts of food: fish, shrimp, chicken stir-fry, cabbage, spring rolls, and french fries (one of these things is not like the others...). After we stuffed ourselves, we settled in and played DeNiro, guess the next song, and cards with a couple from New York until about 10:30. Then Andrew and I went up to the upper deck to relax and look at the scenery. We counted about 40 other boats in the bay with us, each with a load of passengers. By 11:30 we were flat out exhausted and we went down to our cabin to hang out until the New Year arrived. We were both asleep by 12:05. Before we fell asleep, we did hear that damn ABBA song ("Happy New Year") being blared from every boat, including ours, wishing us a...

Happy New Year!

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Posted by agc_cwm 02:14 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Winter Vacation - Hoi An/Hanoi, Vietnam 2006/12/30

The day the gut rotted


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We woke up and got an early start today. We had a lot we had to cram into the day. We had some breakfast at the hotel and then I went to get one last fitting at our first tailor shop. For the past day or two Court had been suffering a case of gut rot. While I was at the tailor getting fitted she wandered off to hospital. I finished up at the tailor then went to the hospital. When I walked up to the hospital I just went in the door with the red cross on it. Where I walked in there was no waiting room, just patients on beds. The "receptionist" either knew or guessed why I was there and took me in to see Court. When I went in Court was being examined by the doctor. He was a really nice man that spoke very good English. He determined it wasn't anything serious and prescribed some pills for it. He also gave us a better anti-diarrheals and some anti-nauseants. I think they are prescription strength so we will just keep them tucked away until we really need them. After Court was given her pills the nurse who couldn't speak English made sure that Court took the pills right then. It was quite a pleasant hospital experience. Here's Court on the bed.

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The hospital here was also the exact opposite of hospitals from back home. There was no white paper to put over the bed and there was a door that just led outside. I was waiting for a dog to wander in, but it never happened.

Once we left the hospital I took the patient to her favourite Italian restuarnt to cheer her up. Once we finished lunch, we again had to go get fitted at the second place. Then we had to go back and pack all our stuff at the hotel. Once we finished this we had to go back to the first tailor to pick up our clothes. The woman at this store was nice enough to organize for the post office people to come meet us at her store. However, we felt bad bringing clothes from another store there to mail so we only sent half of our stuff.

In our travels we also passed this fruit cart.

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This took a little while to organize and send it out. Once we did this we had to go back to the hotel, get our other clothes and go to the Post Office to send it. While we were waiting in line two Czech women got in line behind us and seemed oblivious to the concept of 'waiting in line'. We had to position our selves to block them so they couldn't get past us. We also learned that postal workers in Vietnam also have (or feel they have) a lot of power and aren't going to move any faster than their slowest speed no matter how many people are waiting or how big of a hurry you are in. Needless to say we had to rush to pack our box to send and then rush back to catch our cab to the airport. We made it back to the hotel in time, so it wasn't a big deal, but I was getting pretty stressed. The watch said we were leaving at 5:00 and I wasn't sure if we were going to make it, but we made it with about 20 minutes to spare.

We got to the airport with lots of time to spare. We just sat and read and waited. Except, for some strange reason there were two flights to Hanoi leaving at the same time with the same airline. It made no sense to me. But, this didn't last very long because our plane was delayed for 30 minutes. The only bad thing about our wait was before any announcement, which was quite frequent, they played a long clip of ABBA's "Happy New Year"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcLMH8pwusw. Oh yeah, they also did this at the Saigon airport.

We settled in for our short flight and they brought us some sort of meat paste sandwich that neither one of us ate. It didn't look or smell appetizing. We landed with no problems at all and met our driver to take us to the hotel. This hotel was full, so they put us in a taxi and took us to their sister hotell which had a room for us.

We arrived, put our stuff in our room. We didn't bother unpacking because we were going to leave early the next morning. Our room was huge. There was two single beds and a double. Plus a huge ornately carved armoire and a large balcony. However, the bathroom was dingy. This was ok. We were only staying for one night.

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We left our room to go find some food and maybe some shampoo. We found some food, but no shampoo. Then we went back to the hotel to crash because we had an early morning the next day.

Posted by agc_cwm 21:41 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)