Halong Bay’s finest

The belly of the boat

The belly of the boat

I am waking up to the sun shining in my small yet comfortable and air conditioned cabin, on a ‘junk’ which is the word for an old sailing ship that they’ve converted to a 10 room ship for tourists to enjoy the emerald waters of Halong Bay. The bay is peaceful and full of tall limestone rock formations and we navigate the Pearl Dragon through the rocks. There are fisherman all around us enjoying the plentiful waters, so they can make their living selling these fish to the villagers, and local communities.
The ship has Americans, British and Tasmanian people on it, and it’s interesting to hear the different accents, and listen to all of the different opinions about travel, cultures, and different ideas of the ideal vacation. We used home-made fishing poles last night to catch squid off the back of the boat, so I had noodle soup with broth and FRESH squid this morning, which is very common in Vietnam. Viet means people, and Nam means south, so this country used to be the “people” living in the “south” of China, until they became their own country.  Their history is an interesting one, being invaded by the British, who came to dis-arm the Japanese in 1945, and the French who ran their country. According to the locals, the only positive that the French added to the country was transportation improvements, and better education systems; not minor things, but the Vietnamese didn’t like being run by the French and being forced to live with their rules.
You should be here
Peaceful waters

Peaceful waters

Vietnam is like a little child, and when China or Korea is at odds with them, they just pout and feel sad, like a child, until their “friends” treat them like a father (the U.S. or Japan) and help by siding with them to solve their problems. I’ve only been here 3 days, and was here once back in 2003, and I’ve learned this from what I’ve heard thus far.
Today we visited a man named Mr. Viet in a small village. He invited all 8 of us into his home, played music for us, and served us his home-made rice wine, and hot tea, accompanied by fresh fruit. His wife helps earn money for the home by making rice paper that’s used for spring rolls, and she has to make 100 rice papers to sell to restaurants for about $5 USD. I made a few today, and it’s hot, and takes a long time, but that’s life here. They work hard, and are very content with a simple life.
Vibrant streets
Hunting for some Pho

Hunting for some Pho

In Hanoi, I walked alone on the street to find a great bowl of pho. One can smell lime, broth, and noodle combinations that tempt you to stop along any of the many small restaurants on the streets to get some of this delicious soup. Some Vietnamese eat pho for 2-3 meals a day.  I find the one place recommended by the hotel, and they don’t mess around and ‘dine’ like we do in the states. There’s a list of pho choices on each table, you point to one, and it’s there under 3 minutes on the table, along with fish sauce, fresh limes, and red chili peppers and a red spicy sauce. You eat… you leave. They turn those tables 3 times in 30 minutes. A bowl of hand made noodles, fresh beef, scallions, onions and lime is under $2.
Walking on the streets at 10pm is not a problem, no one bothers you, the streets are clean, and people are friendly when you smile and make contact. I came across a bar that said “cheap and cheerful” so I went in for a local beer, which costs under $1, and met 2 European people who are staying at a hostel. We share stories of travel, and talk about the differences between us; a Swedish person, a German, and an American. Traveling is such an incredible eye opening education, and one is never the same if you’re open to all you can learn and absorb.
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