Bright and early the next morning, a van picked me up at my hotel for a 3 hour drive to Ha Long Bay, which is a UNESCO Heritage site and one of the major attractions in Vietnam. (For those of you who were worried that I only had an overnight in Hanoi, don't worry--I get a full day and a half there after I return from Halong Bay.) It had started drizzling, so most of the pictures I was able to get of Hanoi and the towns on the way to Halong Bay were reflections of raindrops off the window of the van.
|Intersection in central Hanoi|
|In front of Abbey Road Studios in Hanoi, where the Beatles recorded their famous "Red Album"|
|A typical "restaurant" in Hanoi.|
Most of the towns we passed through on the way to Ha Long Bay seemed to be relatively well off, with most people living in individual houses. Most houses in Vietnam are very narrow and built vertically, because land is expensive. Typically there will be a shop on the main floor, and the family will live above it. This makes for some strange looking buildings, especially when the houses have no next door neighbors.
|Housing outside Hanoi|
|A vertical house|
|In my cabin (which I had all to myself)|
|Snack Lady approaching our boat|
After cruising around the bay for a while, we stopped at an island that had some nice stalactite (or stalagmite, I get them confused) and other formations. The cave was huge, it seemed like we walked around for about a half a mile.
|Disembarking at the cave island.|
|Formations in the cave--the lighting is not natural.|
|In the cave.|
|Cruising around the bay|
|Some house boats|
|View from the beach|
|On the beach|
|View from my cabin|
|Unsuccessful fishing expedition|
Almost all of the other people on the boat were from Taiwan. After dinner, there was karaoke, and these people are professionals. They got me to try some Taiwanese liquor in an attempt to get me drunk enough to actually sing, but I would have passed out first. So my record of never having done karaoke is still clean. It was just as well, because all of the lyrics that displayed on the screen were in Chinese characters.
|Dinner on the boat|
|Professional karaoke singers|
While I didn't have enough beer and Taiwanese liquor to do karaoke, I had plenty enough to get me to sleep that night. The next morning was cloudy, but a little less foggy than the day before. After breakfast, we got in rowboats for a more up-close tour of the bay, including lots of houseboats. A few random shots are below. If you look closely enough, you'll see that the houseboats had TV antennas and satellite dishes.
|This is an oyster farm|
At about 11:00 AM, we returned to Ha Long and headed back to Hanoi.
|Part of Ha Long|
|Central Ha Long|
|What happens when you build a 4-story house and have no neighbors.|
|Authentic Communist Propaganda!|
|A town between Ha Long and Hanoi|
|A rice field between Ha Long and Hanoi|
|Back in Hanoi--note the tall, thin houses|
|Everyone in Hanoi rides a motorcycle and most of them wear masks|
|A shop in old town Hanoi. I did not check to see if that was the owner's name or just a description.|
Before dinner, I did some wandering around Hoan Kiem Lake and took a few shots:
|Temple of the Jade Mountain|
|Temple of the Jade Mountain|
|Not sure exactly what this was|
|City View Cafe is on the top floor|
|Mmm...green bean milk shake!|
|View of the intersection from the City View Cafe.|
|Check out item #8. I did not order it, nor did I go back to the kitchen!|
|No shortage of capitalist banks|
Dodging traffic and parked motorcycles, I rounded out the evening by visiting the local Playboy Club. Unfortunately, it turned out to be just a men's clothing store.