Mad+character+limestone in the sea

Trip Start Feb 29, 2004
Trip End Apr 12, 2005

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Hanoi--said ciao to the great group (and my roomie of nearly 2 weeks, David) and headed north from Hue to the current Vietnamese capital. It's just about as chaotic as Saigon, but somehow seems to have more character, especially with the small streets and alleys and the architecture in the old quarter, and also around the many lakes that are in and around the city.

Quite a cool place to hang out, if you can train your brain to block out the constant beeping and roaring of the motorbikes. Spent an hour or so on the balcony of Highlands cafe near the old city to just watch and photograph the night traffic (thanks for the idea, Simon!).

Shuffled with a huge group of Japanese tourists past the late, great and very yellow+embalmed (or was he really a hologram??) Uncle Ho--Ho Chi Minh--on display in a massive, squat mausoleum.

Halong Bay--Signed up for yet another tour (!) from Hanoi (but swore it would be my last in Vietnam...) and had a terrific 3-day cruise on a boat in this gorgeous area of the South China Sea, filled with limestone karst formations (like the ones throughout northern Lao and I guess up into China as well).

Met up with great people again, though I decided to abandon the tour itinerary and stay an extra day on Cat Ba Island to chill on another beach (life is so cruel) and then headed back to Hanoi a day later.

Have dawdled so much I have to extend my visa ($10 extra than everybody else if you have the pleasure of being German, Japanese or American...). But on a good note, in Hanoi met up again with Aussies Trevor and Maggie, who were about to take the plunge and try a new overland border crossing into northern Lao--how was it, M&T?

Also caught up with 2 fabulous Italian guys from the Halong boat trip, Marcello and Simon. We were all headed up to the northwest, so ...
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