The Monkey is Alive!... Ha Long Bay... on to Sa Pa

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Jan 24, 2011

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Dragon Pearl Junk

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Monday, January 17, 2011

UPDATE…. The Monkey is Alive!

I'm not sure how this happened to be since I saw the monkey with my own eyes. But my friend Chau called Peace Village and was told that yes, Lise Abu, the monkey, is in fact alive and has been brought inside for warmth.  I have since written to Chau to find out more about his condition.

I can only theorize about how he is again alive.  Perhaps he did never die & made a miraculous recovery, but I think the more plausible possibility is this…. the monkey did in fact die.  However, this being Hanoi where things seem to always stay the same, the monkey came back reincarnated.... unfortunately for him tho, Mr. Abu came back reincarnated as himself… talk about a stroke of bad luck.  I will keep you informed and may in fact visit Peace Village this Sunday before I go back home.


By this time, those who have been reading this and many of my past journals must be saying 'There he goes again, it’s not possible that each of these trips and experiences can be consistently as good as he describes and better than the last"….. Well, I’m not able to say ‘this one is better than that one’, but it seems with few exceptions, each trip and most events during the trips have genuinely been outstanding.

And Hanoi and Vietnam take a back seat to none of my other trips.  Since my last post was for things that took place thru the previous Friday, I’m going to fill in the blanks since then with three  memorable events….

I left Saturday for my 2 day/ 1 night cruise thru Halong Bay.  The evening before I was invited to Chau’s house (she is the program director for VPV in Hanoi).  Just such a sweet, wonderful person who happens to speak the best English of anyone that I’ve met while here.  Well, just because she speaks English fluently doesn’t mean that my understanding her accent will lead to perfect comprehension…tho I do much, much better with her than any other people with accents.

Like I said, the day before, she had invited me for dinner I thought.  She mentioned she would come by around 7pm and we would go to her place on her motorbike.  When she came by, she mentioned I thought that she lived with her family and I told her that I didn’t realize I was meeting her family and was embarrassed that I hadn’t brought a gift…this I believe is customary.  She asked "What for, there is no need”, and I left it at that, altho I expected that I’d feel awkward meeting her parents and not having brought anything.

Well, here I go again with traffic stories, but crossing the street is a walk in the park compared to driving on the back of a motorbike in Hanoi.  While Chau is, I believe, an excellent driver, she is relatively small with big ‘ol me on the back, and traffic is just insane.  It is just like a video game…that’s the best way to describe it.  Motorbikes are bunched to both your sides, everyone tailgates…within the flow you have bikes, bike taxis, auto taxis and buses.  Perhaps a push cart will pop up crossing the road and I even saw an elderly lady once just sweeping with a broom in the middle of the street as motorbikes whizzed around her in front and back.  Total insanity.  Anyway, one accident and you would have a 30 bike pileup, but it doesn’t seem to happen…one of the great mysteries in life.

Well, we arrived at Chau’s house in a very nice part of the city and we went into her apartment building, me expecting to meet her family.  Open the door and there are 4 men inside…now I’m confused.  Turns out she teaches English at nights and she was bringing me to her place so that her 4 students can meet an American who spoke good English…. I had no idea.

Chau then left to get food and l’m there with 4 fellows who speak just a bit of English, and don’t know if I’m supposed to do some teaching, or tell them about America or what I’m supposed to do.  Well, when in doubt, can’t go too wrong with a trick or puzzle or talking football (soccer) or the Olympics…and we did.  Chou returned and I showed every trick & math puzzle I knew and many I had forgotten for years.  Often, Chau would have to explain the puzzle to them in Vietnamese, but after about 2 hours we were all laughing and showing each other any and all tricks any of us knew

Funny, but two of the math related puzzles that I have told for years, I have never heard a clear, concise explanation for…and I’ve heard the same one or two explanations perhaps 100 times when I’ve told it to Americans… never even heard another different answer theorized.  Well, two of the guys and Chau gave an explanation that was entirely different from each other’s and entirely different from anything I had ever heard in 30 years of telling this puzzle.  And both seemed so much closer to the answer, but was actually difficult for me to follow…but I think they had it nailed.

Anyway, I so enjoy Chau’s company and her friends/students were great and this evening was a real highlight.

Next day, at 7:30am, my taxi arrived to take me to meet the van that would take us on the junk cruise of Ha Long Bay, perhaps Vietnam’s most visited and distinctive ‘must see’ attraction.  We had a medium sized wooden junk called the Dragon Pearl that was highly recommended and had about 13 rooms…and absolutely beautiful rooms….full showers & baths, queen bed and beautifully decorated.  Upstairs on the 2nd level was the bar & dining room and on the top deck was a sunning deck with chaise lounges.

There were 9 of us, Cathy from VA, Ruth from Canada, Ryan & Thea a wonderful young married couple from Brooklyn, a middle aged French couple and 2 French men who were together.  There was also a staff of 8 crew who couldn’t have been any nicer or more helpful.  Ha Long Bay has these incredible mountains that just jut out from the deep water…perhaps 75 or 100 of them, I really don’t know.  The junks navigate around them and dock for various activities.  We got out and went into some caves via foot and then went 2 man kayaking around the island mountains for about an hour…it was choppy, it was cold, it was tiring & I was drenched….but it was extraordinary.

That evening after a bunch of drinks, we had an 8 course meal that rivaled the best meals I’ve ever had… crawfish, prawns, mackerel, a chicken dish, and 4 other Vietnamese dishes I do not remember…plus food presentations/sculptures that were a work of art...I’ve included some pictures.  Again, just a wonderful group of people with whom it was easy to make friends.  That evening, 4 of us went squid fishing from the boat…very interesting technique with just a little popper type jig that you let down by hand and jig it up and down.  A spotlight is shined into the water to attract the squid as it shines off of the lure.  Final tally….French men- 3,  American- 0.

I’ll write more later about my stay where I am now in Sa Pa, the Vietnamese ‘Alps’.  After an all nite train ride via sleeper car, we arrived this morning at about 6am.  Seems charming, but it’s been so foggy at this height that you can barely see 20 feet in front.… and I expect it to be this way for the time I’m here… tho it does have its own flavor. 

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Amy on

The rock formations are just incredible.

Julie on

This part of your trip looks amazing! This is the kind of beauty I have in mind when I think of Vietnam. Thanks for sharing your pics. The floating fishing village looks very intriguing! Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Pam on

Once again, the story and pictures are amazing. This seems like one of the "highlights" of your journey.

cynthiameanwell on

those are just stunning photographs, ken. professional quality. surely you're using a slr camera this time. just brilliant.

cleo2471 on

I'm not sure if I am happy or sad that poor monkey is still alive, but glad to hear they finally brought him inside to keep warm! Your weekend trip sounds fabulous . . . you are my role model for living each day to it's fullest!

splunk on

and look who my last 2 comments are from...2 of the 3 favorite Ayacuchian travel buds... Thanks & its great to see your pics again.

Karen on

Exquisite setting. And I can't wait to hear more about the monkey!

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