You have rods, what more do you want from me?
Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
84Trip End Jun 11, 2011
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Where I stayed
Aclass Junk Boat
The bus ride was fairly uneventful (save the uneven bumpy roads and interesting traffic rules) as I spent the time gazing out the window.
We stopped halfway through the journey to "use the restrooms." However, the restrooms were at the back of the biggest tourist trap gift shop I have seen on this trip (including Disneyland). Handmade goods and silks as far as the eye can see, and they can ship to anywhere in the world (in case we wanted to buy a 6 foot stone statue of a lion or a Buddha).
The pier at Ha Long was a madhouse. Every Westerner imaginable was there from dirty backpackers to wealthy retirees. All of the boats have a similar itinerary, it just depends if you want to spend 1, 2, or 3 days on board and what level of service you would prefer. After waiting about 20 minutes, the dinghy came by to take us to our Aclass junk boat. Holding 12 cabins, it is a fairly averaged size boat. We didn't want to go with one of the bigger ships that had 40 cabins as you had to fight for common space.
After lunch we were able to enjoy the scenery and I must say that it is spectacular, limestone mountains as far as the eye can see (which was not very far on this foggy day). Now I know why it is being considered as one of the seven natural wonders of the world (and we were told to vote for it close to twenty times in the two days we were there). We then boarded the dinghy again which took us to a small fishing village where we were able to kayak around the area or let a local row you around.
Back on board the Aclass, we started our party which consisted of a glass of local Vietnamese wine, some fruit (pineapple and dragon fruit), and some music (mostly Rhianna). We then had our cooking class where we were taught how to make anam (fried spring rolls). Not sure we were really taught anything though as the mixture was premade and they cooked them for us. But at least we learned how to wrap a spring roll for when I make them at home. Amy enjoyed that the tour guide asked all the men in the group to practice first so that they could make them for the women once back home.
The next morning was another early wake up call. After breakfast we were taken to Hang Suc So (translated to "Amazing Cave" or "Surprising Cave"). There are 250 steps to the cave, which consisted of 3 rooms (with each room getting bigger than the previous). The rock formations were carved over the last 280 million years and the Vietnamese have found shapes out of many different rocks. There is the dragon’s head, the turtle, the two feet, the Buddha, and one other object that is up for debate. Some believe that it is a canon shooting a hole into the ceiling (picture on the left), but if you see it from a different angle, it looks like something else (picture on right). Nate if you are having trouble figuring out what it looks like, ask Kirby.
We had one final lunch on the ship as we headed back to the pier and then on to Hanoi. The bus ride back had some of the same sites as before (who would have thought), including the stop over at another tourist trap. We made it back to our hostel to use the facilities and check email before our overnight train to Hue.
Amy here: I had told many of my family and friends before leaving on this trip that I was looking forward to the challenges it would bring. I wanted to be taken outside of my comfort zone and experience new things. I guess I should take that back about now because the overnight train from Hanoi to Hue just about did me in. Our hotel was nice enough to purchase tickets for us on the 'upgraded' soft-sleeper train (for a premium of course). On first look the train seemed almost clean with sparse furnishings and very basic construction - compartments had 4 beds each, 2 on each side with a table under the window between them. The whole train seemed made out of wood and the floors some rubbery substance so you could clearly see what was clean and what wasn't. I was pretty satisfied and right away made up my bed by tossing the standard issue pillow and blanket to the side and rolling out my sleep sack and airline pillow I had nicked from Dragonair on the way here. Then Dave and I waited for our mystery compartment mates. We watched as the entire car filled up with Western tourists. About 20 minutes before the train was scheduled to leave an older gentleman arrived and crashed onto the bottom bunk. After some initial conversation we learned he's a retired biologist from Vancouver whose wife wasn't willing to make this trip with him. During the conversation I noticed a few bugs, almost beetle like, crawling on the opposite wall above Mr. Canada Biologist's bed. Dave did his best to kill them and I was satisfied. The train started off and was quite jerky but we all chalked it up to still being in the city. After more chatting (Mr. Canada Biologist had come the other way through SE Asia so we were asking advice), Dave settled down on the bottom bunk to draft the blog entries for Hanoi and I went up top above him to listen to an audio book (the Glass Castle, excellent read). After about 30 minutes I notice more bugs crawling on the wall. I jumped down and Dave helped kill them. Now Mr. Canada Biologist is watching us and remarks that the bugs are harmless, just small cockroaches. Trying to be brave, I smile, say I can do this, no problem, and go back up to lie down and listen to more book on ipod. I turn off the light and try to relax to go to sleep. 30 minutes later I open my eyes and there are now several larger cockroaches all scampering around the side wall next to my head. I leap down and feel nauseous (although to be fair this could be from the extremely jerky train and some of you reading this blog know how carsick I get). After sitting on the bottom bunk for a bit to calm down, Mr. Canada Biologist offers up some bug spray he has with him (we only have bug lotion, not spray). Dave accepts and sprays the whole top bunk. At this point I am tired, nauseous and can only imagine loads of cockroaches eating me all night long. I've worked myself into quite a tizzy. Being the wonderful husband that he is, Dave offers to switch with me and takes the top bunk and falls asleep right away, I can hear him snoring. I am lying on the bottom bunk listening to my book terrified to sleep. Besides, the train made stops every hour or so and when it came to a stop it lurched so much so Dave almost fell off at one point. And then we learned Mr. Canada Biologist had some sort of nighttime bathroom fetish where he got up and opened the door with a bang about 7 times throughout the night. Speaking of the bathroom, let's just say I would prefer the bathroom in the train from Xi'an to Beijing. Although this had a western toilet that was fairly clean, the window to the outside was wide open the entire night. By morning, the toilet, sink and all surface areas were covered with mosquitos. Guys may not appreciate this but imagine having to turn around, take off your pants and bare your bum to the schools of mosquitos. This was 6am and we only had 4 long hours to go until we finally arrived at the Hue station after 10:30am. I think from now on, we'll look at taking the bus or flying!