Asian Wonders # 11: Docked at Ha Long Bay and an Overnight Adventure in Hanoi, Vietnam

Asian Wonders # 11: Docked at Ha Long Bay and an Overnight Adventure in Hanoi, Vietnam

Dragon 3 and 4 in my quest to find 9 meaningful dragons.

Ha Long Bay is located in northern Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin near the border with China (people in this region make daytrips to china for shopping and can return the same day) and 106 miles to Hanoi.  Ha Long Bay means “Bay of the Descending Dragon” in the Vietnamese language.

I woke early to be able to stand on the top deck to watch Ha Long Bay and the monument islands unfold.  At first I was disappointed because it was a foggy morning and misting as well.  But once one realizes that weather is an enhancement, you just cock your camera and start shooting.  Ha Long bay is counted as the most beautiful bay in the world and has been added to UNESCO’s list of important places to save. One of these photos is as good, as the one this cruise line uses for publicity.

Yes we did ride 3 almost 4 hours on a bumpy, pothole filled road to Hanoi from Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.  We journeyed through village after village. Each village while different had enough of the characteristics to make it Vietnam.  What a pleasure and a privilege to be here. But once again the history of our involvement arises.  They have gentle reminders, but show no outward animosity.  I will say that each major city we have visited seems to have a War Museum that you are taken to visit and it shows some of the military weaponry and the awful things done here.  Gulp, you want to say, “Sorry,” but I didn’t because who will I say it to?

Let us move on. The Vietnamese could not have been nicer to us or treated us with any more courtesy than if we were royalty. I thank them for that and I thank them welcoming us into their country once again in another time, on another level.

When we finally arrived in Hanoi, we had another interesting lunch.

After lunch we checked into our hotel and were then treated to a Cyclo-Ride. This is a chair, all your own, where you sit and are peddled into the center of the city for an hour. Remember all of those two-wheeled motorbikes and all the head on traffic I talked about? As your chair begins its ride, all of the traffic envelops you, and it was a new head trip altogether. After I got over feeling sorry for the guy peddling, I plunged into the experience.  I started to realize that even though I took as many photos as I could, I still could not capture the real street scene.  All manner of life is there. I saw a man getting a soapy shave in the middle of the scene, a haircut was in progress, several fellows peed in public, a woman squatted for her relief, small cooking done on the curbs, fruits and vegetables being sold, diapers being changed, families having a meal, everything being sold and all kinds of activities and exchanges were happening.  I even stared down a fellow having a beer, until we finally both cracked a smile.  I saw, everything being sold or shown, needed and or not needed, but honestly, one of the only things I did not see was copulating by man or beast. It was there, I am sure, but I just didn’t see it.

After the ride, I was told that one of the other peddlers would not let his occupant take photos. I was so grateful my driver let me be the boss I over tipped him. In looking over the photos, I can see it was something you had to be there to feel and understand because the photos are rather tame compared to the actual ride. There are so, so many photo opportunities that pass, connect to the brain, committed to the memory section, but are gone when the finger begin to push the button! Click! Gone!

Burn your trash at the side of the road.

We met our guide this morning in the Lobby of The Hotel Elegance and the moment you opened the door, you found yourself in the middle of everything happening. The intensity and density of the activity in the street causes momentary euphoria. A camera can capture many scenes, but density and intensity to humans escapes technology capabilities, so far. I think. Before we got started on the day’s touring activities, I opened the lobby door and went out to join the activity in the streets. I put myself in the middle of a bunch of ladies crowded around a particular seller of vegetables and fruit. The ladies bowed, actually smiled and huddled me into their circle. I just stood there absorbing the warmth of their bodies, the sounds of their voices, their smells, their hums and grunts and the buying and selling. They let me be part of them. Oh my! All too soon, I was called to join the tour.

We started the morning at Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. This country loves him then, now and forever, and in this Mausoleum he lies for everyone to have a walk around and see him in his final resting place.  They say it is really his body even though people have accused his likeness to being perhaps wax.  Every year for two months he is not being viewed because of repairs that must be done to preserve him.  I will say that his room is so cold you can be sure that damage to him has been slowed down and his preservation enhanced.  Google Ho Chi Minh and see what an interesting man he was, life he led and some of the work did for the love of his country.

We continued on to the Literature University, which has a long history, but is no longer a working university.  It was begun in the 1300’s to educate the King’s children. At some point it was opened to about 1,000 students who passed rigid exams and showed great promise. Many of the top students were picked as Mandarins who served the king in many helpful as well as leadership roles.  There was once a prominent teacher who became the principal of this prestigious school.  His name was Chu Van An. He told the king that some of the Mandarins were not doing their jobs and the king repaid him my asking him to leave the school. Chu Van An left the school and went further up north to open a school for children in his village.  The king soon found that Chu Van An was absolutely correct in his assessments of some of the Mandarins and asked him to come back to his former position as principal.  Chu Van An refused the king’s offer to return to the university as principal and enjoyed teaching the children in his village for the rest of his life. This beautiful statue of Chu Van An is enjoyed by all who visit the university. The grounds of the old university are beautiful and they have been turned into quite a tourist attraction.

For a moment, please pause and look at this thousand year old tree.

We kept on going to see the beautiful Pagoda in West Lake called Tran Quoc.  We especially enjoyed this place of prayer and joined in with the donation first, the hands put together in prayer.  You shake hands once, twice and a third time. Then, you can give it an extra little spin and do it again.  Now, you are blessed and you know it.

We were served an extensive buffet lunch including many Vietnamese delicacies and then transferred the 3 ½ hours back to Ha Long Bay.  Since 3 ½ hours is a long time to go with out a break, so, we made a stop at a roadside business full of handmade souvenirs and an opportunity to see them being made.

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We are back on our cruise ship heading through the Straight of Taiwan to Huang Pu, China. Tomorrow, our guide will pick us up and drive us one hour to Guangzhou City/Canton City. After an overnight cruise, we will head into Hong Kong, our final destination.

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