Dubai to Hanoi, 21 December, 2019.
Yes, I know the title is cheesy but had to be done!
Left Dubai at some silly time (3.40 am) for the 5 hour flight to Hanoi on my parent’s 58th Wedding Anniversary to start my trip, bittersweet journey but looking forward to it.
I did wonder if I had packed my toiletry bag ok as the evening before, every time I zipped up my rucksack, I accidentally pressed the on button of my electric toothbrush – not sure if the baggage handler could cope with that!
Flight was fine and got to the hotel and met my room mate for the trip, Maria from the States but currently living and working in Moscow.The obligatory group meeting where I met the rest of the group, 21 of us from UK, Aus, NZ, Lebanon and Kuwait, a great mix of ages and nationalities.
Had a little walk around, in the Old Town area and it reminded me a bit of the quieter streets of Bombay, people sat on the pavement, selling stuff, cracked stones..!
Early morning and then bus ride to Halong Bay to join the boat for the overnight sail. Have to admit that I was not expecting it to be grey and chilly but it was ok.
Boat was very nice, around 20 cabins, viewing deck etc – comfortable cabins and dining deck. Large lunch (as is the case most days) and then there was an excursion to a cave and a beach. I obviously didn’t go, it was cold and grey, but I had a massage instead!
Afternoon brought a cooking lesson, fresh spring rolls and a ‘Masterchef’ cook off! Girls against boys, girls won of course. Rice wine shots (not nice) and dinner. I would add pictures but am using hotel WiFi and nothing is downloading!
Monday we sailed a bit more, even though it was cool and slightly grey, it was a lovely view, Halong Bay being a UNESCO site. Were lots of boats though, some larger, cruise type boats and some traditional ones like ours, took some of the charm away but it’s a famous site so to be expected.
There is a large cave we went to see, it was like being on a Harry Potter set, or Indiana Jones, very impressive but just streams of people pushing to get just the right picture. I know that that is what tourism is like and wonderful sites and views are always going to be popular, but it does take something away from the experience.
Back to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital is loud, busy and full of scooters and mopeds, sometimes with a whole family on board getting from A to B. I could never drive on the roads there, people just go to where they want to without regard for any other road user, pedestrian or buffalo! Crossing is impossible without taking the role of a lollipop person and physically standing in the middle of the road to stop traffic! It’s a very cosmopolitan city but not much of any french influence around, very functional and concrete. I don’t know if the old world was destroyed by the war or just that I didn’t come across it, but I was hoping to like the city more.
I have been wanting to visit Vietnam for a long time but maybe I relied too much of what I had seen on TV, with Hawkeye, Maj. Houlihan, Klinger and Radar rather than Apocalypse Now.
I am curious about how the Vietnam War started, how USA became involved and how the North & South became reunified. South Vietnam was a separate state years ago, known as Champa, I had no idea about this or how it came about that it was taken over by the Vietnamese.
The Mekong region has been influenced by both India and China with Indian traders arriving in around AD100 and then Chinese occupation from around AD800 for 1000 years. I got the impression that the Vietnamese are proud of claiming back their country only to then have it taken over by the French and then ‘meddled with’ by the Americans because they feared communism.
All these different influences and rulers have left their mark on Vietnam, I am sure, but I think I need to read further and work things out for myself as I am not sure that I have been given unbiased details and information about the history, the troubles and the evolution.
I wanted to add pictures but can’t download them right now!!