Cat Ba Island to Halong City to Hanoi

Trip Start Sep 24, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Had a pleasant journey back to Hanoi from Cat Ba Island.  Bus picked us up (Aust. family and me) at the Sunflower 1 Hotel where we stayed the first night and moved to Thien Tien Hotel for 2nd and 3rd.  Drove to boat, motored around a different part of Halong Bay, I think right up there with the East Arm of Great SLave Lake.  Big, tall Island dotted seascape, clouded in mist and fog, making scene very mysterious and ethereal.  The group  (about 13 people) were all mesmerizedl   Stopped at small fishing village and got into smaller boats to motor through some adjoining caves.  Again, so beautiful.  Had to pay 30,000 dong ($2) for the trip and this went to pay for schoolbooks, apparently, although didn't see a school. Saw a building with a sign that it was built with Japanese money for the children of the village but it looked empty with two little scraggly kids gazing at us from its deck. I have a picture. Got to Halong City, docked and walked to a restaurant for a set lunch. Back on bus for 3 hour trip to Hanoi. I had to sit in front seat between driver and guide which was a lot smoother than what they experienced in the back, and the guide wanted to practice his English so we talked most of the way.  Stopped once for coffee, always at a place that sells substandard local products - do not know who buys the stuff. Got dropped off in the Old City at Sinh Travel, 52 Hang Bac St., the one mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide and where I booked my travel and have a new friend, Huong, who works there. She wants her and her husband to come to Canada. More on her later.  Anyway I didn't have a guesthouse so she recommended one around the cornor 'The A to Z Guesthouse" also recommneded in the LP.  Didn't want to stay at previous one as they charged too much and were mad at me as I didn't book my travel through them, to Halong Bay. That is an expectation but tourists are told not to go through them, go through travel agencies.  Anyway I, left my pack at Sinh Travel and walked on these crazy narrow streets with motorcycles going everywhere, darting around tourists and other locals carrying produce etc. Very scary. Got to hotel, which has restaurant and bar underneath, saw their $12 room which was fine, aircon, sat tv, bathroom, double bed high up so quiet. Guy who works there, Duyen, was to get my bags on his scooter from Sinh Travel but he wanted me to come, so on the back of his scooter I get, we go off into this scary traffic, which is even worse when riding, and it's only around the corner -  I had told him, that's ok, I;ll just walk but he says no, no get on back, it's ok..  they always say that... anyway got stuck in traffic a few meters from hotel, I got off and said I would meet him at Sinh Travel. I walk, he gets there in a few minutes, he puts my pack in front of him and says to get on the back and I say it's ok I'll walk, and he says again, no no it's ok so off we go the three of us, pack, driver and me.  The 2nd time Ive ridden like that (also in Danang). Got registered in room and got up the 5 flights (Duyen carried my pack!)Only thing is the showers in Asia are crazy, the water just goes on floor, no ridges to keep it contained to one spot, and in this room, the bathroom sink water just goes on floor too!  I thought the pipe was broken, went downstairs and said something wrong with drain, Duyen grabs a wrench and goes up there, meanwhile I go to restaurant for bottle of water, get back up to hotel and they beam and say 'all fixed'! and I was surprised as I was only gone for 2 minutes. Get back to room, 5 floors up, and same thing happens, water from sink just goes on floor. I run downstairs again and they all look at me like 'what now?" and I say "it's not fixed, water still going on floor".. They laugh and say, it's just like shower, water goes on floor!  The penny dropped, and I said oh, right. But I said it's all messy because it is all tracked with shoe prints leaving mud everywhere and they sent up the housekeeper to wash my floors again for me! She thought it was the funniest thing.  I pantomined that I was blowing on the floor so it would dry, and she laughed.  Anyway, I met Huong's husband, Stephane, who is French and works at a raspberry farm in Dalat, Vietnam. He was home for a couple of days for a visit and she was adamant I join them for dinner that night!  I met them at Sinh Travel at 8 p.m. and the 3 THREE of us! got on their scooter and drove a couple! of blocks to a restaurant. Had a great meal. It was not a typical Vietnamese hole in the wall but an upscale restaurant. He has a degree and runs this whole 70 employee farm.  She is taking French and Japanese lessons and is soon finished her training and they eventually want to move to Canada. I think his prospects working in the Okanagan at a fruit farm or winery should be good. They are a lovely couple in their late 20s.  The next day I went to a move, the Devil Wears Prada, walked around and got to the train station for my train to Sapa. More on that later!
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