Goooood Morning, Vietnam!

(March 7 – March 10) After our bus ride from hell we were super excited to have a place to sleep and to reunite with our pals Shannon and Alexis. In the morning Ethan found their hotel, so we packed up and moved to that place. We felt much better about paying for a place that wasn’t part of the bus scam. After we showered and scrubbed all the bus grime off of us, we set out to see the sights of Hanoi. We were highly unprepared for the crazy busy city that greeted us. The streets are narrow and there are more people on motorbikes there than there are in Thailand. There is also a serious lack of street lights and stop signs and where they existed they were not adhered to. It was insane and I’m very surprised that we didn’t see any accidents.

Anyway, that day we went to a temple on an island in a lake in the middle of town, but it cost money to get in so we took a picture outside and left. We also visited the Maison Centrale Prison where John McCain was held as a POW during the Vietnam War. It was highly anti-American/French, but it was still really neat. The next day we tried to see more of Hanoi’s sights, but it was Friday and many of the sights are closed. We didn’t know this ahead of time though, so we set out only to be disappointed and frustrated. We saw the building that Ho Chi Minh’s body is housed in (aka Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum) and we saw the outside of a museum that has a really big flag pole outside of it, but we weren’t even allowed to go up to the flag pole. After those two failed attempts we decided to give up and find some lunch. We did make it out to another lake in town that was pretty neat, but didn’t stay long due to hunger and lack of cheap places to eat. Later that night we went to the night market for dinner and a little shopping. We had some of Vietnam’s famous Pho. I didn’t really like it, but everyone else did. We left the night market with some bracelets and I bought a phone cover in the shape of one of my favorite Disney characters, Stitch. :]

Pho-king great!
Beamer, Benz, or Rolls?

The next day we left Hanoi on a tour headed to Halong Bay, which has been called one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam and is a World Heritage Site. We’re not usually package tourists, but trying to get there on our own seemed a bit too complicated for us, so we bit the bullet and paid for a tour. We took a bus out to Halong City and then a little boat took us out to the boat we’d be touring the bay on and staying the night on. The boat reminded me of the riverboats on the Mississippi. We got two rooms that were all wood on the inside and a lot nicer than we expected. The shower even had hot water (didn’t last very long, but it was there!)! The tour took us to a cave and to a tiny island with a pagoda on top. The cave was pretty cool and huge, but it had been way overdone with lights and footpaths. (E- The cave was called Surprising Cave for how big it is once you’re inside, but the only thing we were surprised about was how dirty the water was everywhere in Halong Bay. I mean, trash everywhere. It was really quite sad that such a natural beauty has been allowed to waste away. And it’s supposed to be protected by the United Nations…) The island was beautiful, but Emily and I decided not to take the 400 stair climb to the pagoda. The pictures from up there were beautiful, although Ethan says they don’t do it justice. After the island we headed back to the big boat for dinner. The food was really good, which surprised us and they gave us a lot of it, which was even more surprising. They had karaoke and dancing after dinner, but we were on the boat with like 5 Asians, two older Russian couples, and two American girls who were our age. It didn’t exactly make for the best karaoke audience so we opted out and I don’t usually say no to karaoke! Instead we hung out on the roof deck and chatted with the girls we had met. They had just finished teaching English in Korea and made it very clear that they really liked it and made way more money than we did. In the morning, we did a quick cruise of the bay after breakfast then headed back to Halong City where we had lunch before departing the boat. Overall, we were pleased with the tour and might not be so apprehensive about package tours in the future :] (E- Still very apprehensive. I’d much rather rent a motorbike and do it myself, but you can’t do that on the water…)

Surprising Cave
View of Halong Bay from Ti Top Island
Go Wings!

It was a 3 hour bus ride back to Hanoi where we waited an hour or so for the overnight bus that would take us to Hue and then on to Hoi An. We crossed our fingers that this ride would go smoother than the last one! 

Still just doesn’t do it justice!
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