New Years

Trip Start Sep 26, 2004
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13
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Trip End Jan 15, 2005


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Tuesday, January 4, 2005

January 4, 05

Northern Vietnam is spectacular in its diverse scenery and people. I caught a bus to Halong Bay the day after I arrived. I was a day behind the group I had met, but figured I would catch up to them in the bay somewhere. Our first stop after the 4 hour journey was the port in Halong Bay. I was with a group of 12 from various countries. The scene at the port was unreal. There must have been 25 large boats all crammed into the dock area.When one left another would wedge its way in. Boats were bouncing off each other and the docks. We had to climb over at least 8 boats to reach ours. These are large vessels capable of holding dozens of passengers on three decks. There are so many tourists in this area that there just isn't enough dock space for all the boats. They are all wooden, and look like Chinese 'Junks'. We left the bay and cruised the area for a few hours until we reached the first cave that we would tour. The area is similar to the region of Thailand that was hit by the tsunami. Large rock outcroppings and islands everywhere. Most of us sat up on the top deck in lounge chairs taking it all in. It's cold up north, so they provided blankets and hot drinks. The cave was enormous. It's hard to describe, but it was a huge cavern inside one of the mountainous islands of rock. I spent at least an hour wandering around the lighted interior. After that dinner was served on the boat as we looked for a quiet cove to anchor for the night. The staff was great and they brought out wine after dinner for an early New Years Eve celebration. Sleeping on the boat was a nice change from hotels and guesthouses. The next day I returned to Hanoi and caught the sleeper train to Sapa that evening. It's very cold in the mountains! I don't think anyone thought it would be so frigid. I still had not seen the group I was looking for, but from e-mails, I knew they were in town. We all ended up on different walking tours and treks to local villages so I didn't catch up to them until the night train back 3 days later. New Years was interesting. I went to a hotel that had native dancers perform. My hotel had free wine and food as well, so I ended up there after the show. I ran into Chloe and the others at the train station and we compared stories about the treks. They went to a village and did a home stay over New Years. I could have done one as well, but it was a little cold for me so I opted for the hotel. I sent most of my trekking gear from Nepal and Tibet home long ago. Back in Hanoi,we found a new backpackers hostel so we didn't have to stay in the normal hotels. The hostel has a common area and kitchen, which I like. Chloe and I did a city walking tour that included Ho Chi Min's mausoleum and the local markets. Hanoi is huge and it makes Hue look like a small town. The traffic never stops. Constant horn blowing and vehicle noise. I would go crazy here in no time at all. She and I got lost several times on our walk, but what fun would it be without looking around and not knowing where you are? We had dinner at a small locals restaurant that didn't get either of our orders correct, but it was good anyway. I leave tonight on the train for Beijing. Chloe is off to Bangkok, and the others from the Sapa trip have all gone in different directions as well. So I'll go solo to China. It will take two days and two nights for the journey. I booked a nice sleeper berth so it should be a decent trip. More from China.............
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