Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vietnam Day 2

So, woke up early and had to pack everything into my bag -- we're going to Ha Long Bay today. Had great expectations for breakfast -- Pho! But alas, that is not to be. Supposedly Pho is south Vietnam cuisine and so is not available (well, not exactly) in the north. The northern fare seems to be milder in taste and the broth fresher. Also, my favorite Vietnamese spring roll is also missing. Very disappointing. After breakfast it is a long bus ride to Ha Long Bay. Again, it was like a ghost town, everything was closed. Upon arrival, we checked into the hotel and went to lunch. After lunch, we did a bus tour of the city of Ha Long Bay and then went on a boat ride of the Bay. The ride itself was nice enough but again the boat is pretty dingy. The Europeans got this ride -- a nice boat came alongside ours and it was like a huge junk with private balconies and airconditioning and a smaller speed boat in tow in the back. The scenery was pretty amazing though. The ride was smooth and the limestone mountains with uniquely shaped natural formations (one that looks like a rooster, another that looks like a dog and one that looks like a chinese junk) and limestone caves to visit. There's also an abundance of fishing activities and we were able to visit a "kelong" where the fishes that are caught are housed in a floating home with nets placed in holes in the floor. Also, the abundance of fresh tropical fruits being hawked by motorized sampans was a nice touch too but soon became an annoyance. Lunch on the boat was nice and all in all a good day. The day ended with a underwater puppet show, where the puppeteers are waist high in FILTHY algea infested water and a folk dancing demonstration. The puppets are essentially controlled by bamboo poles that are submerged in the murky water. The folk dancing demonstration provided a good opportunity to appreciate different tribal costume.


This actually happpened in February but I am only posting it now -- yeah, yeah -- so I procrastinated. In any case, while I was in Singapore for my somewhat irregular visit, my parents and I took a trip to Vietnam and China over the Chinese New Year holiday. A word of advise, don't go to Vietnam during Chinese New Year (at least not the first few days) -- everything is CLOSED. Granted, we didn't go south, only north Vietnam, but from the looks of things, seems like it is a prevalent practice. We arrived in Hanoi in the afternoon on the first day of Chinese New Year. Immigration was really slow -- don't know if this is a phenomenon of the holiday or if it is just how things are. There were twenty four of us in the group and perhaps the smallest and dingiest bus on the lot was there to pick us up. Most of the people in the group are from Singapore and, as Singaporeans go, started complaining abuot the bus. There is a certain amount of legitimacy to the complaints -- the bus is too small -- really, it is. There is this huge bump inside the bus where the wheels are so even if they put seats there, you can't really comfortably seat a person there. The luggage compartment is too small -- come on, its a Singaporean group and this is day one -- we haven't started shopping yet! It was so small that they had to put some luggages stacked in the back seats of the bus, which is a major safety issue. If the driver should have to perform an emergency brake, the bags would have gone flying and someone would either end up with a nasty bruise to the melon or be decapticated. Anyway, bus issue aside, we went sight seeing directly from the airport. There really wasn't anything much to see -- everything was closed. The only place open was the Ho Chih Minh Memorial Square and you can't get too close to see anything and a temple. Next to the temple was a museum but that was closed to. After that, it is dinner and the hotel to sleep.