Warning: Long winded travel update ahead! So happy new year everyone! On new years eve I wandered towards the centre and ended up at the Vietnam equivalent of the Sydney opera house / Big Ben / etc New Year celebrations. Loads of bands, dancers, a shedload of DJs I’d never heard of and a nice big fireworks display to close out (plus a couple of cans from the Kmart: 50c cans of beer? Yeah go on then….) Got chatting to & had a few beers with plenty of interesting people and for the first time ever had no bother seeing the stage. Its great being a clear foot taller than the average height over here 🙂
Dispute the merriment was still up early & took a stroll down to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Went and had a look round the grounds, stilt house, his old office as well as the museum before realising that access to the man himself is closed on Mon & Fri. Fail. Still, the mausoleum and the grounds were spectacular and when coupled with the gargantuan communist party headquarters opposite (as with so much communist architecture) massively imposing. Spent the rest of the day exploring the city, took in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ jail, some parks, the monument to the founder of Ha Noi, took a stroll around Hoan Kiem lake, visited the temple on the island in said lake & watched some Vietnamese calligraphy being done. After doing about 20k walking in the daytime, the evening was spent resting!
A second attempted visit to ‘the minhster’ on Saturday also ended in failure when I found out he’s only open for visitors in the morning, it would heave been easier too get an appointment when he was still alive! More exploring and the ancient citadel, the temple of literature, the oldest temple in the city, and more park wandering closed the day out.
The reason for the (attempted) afternoon visit was the Sat morning was spent arranging a cruise to Ha Long bay leaving Sunday morning. After some shopping around I found one in budget & well reviewed so was on the bus at 7:30am. 4 hour dive latest and we were transferred to a beautify wooden boat, the Golden Palace, treated to a welcome drink and a delicious & huge meal. Then up to the sundeck for a few drinks and to take in the amazing scenery and the sunset. After a night interrupted by the fire alarm at 2:30am (I didn’t think it was possible to be up out of bed & into a lifejacket as fast as I was) it was up at 6am for Thai Chi & the sunrise (I suck at Thai Chi) breakfast and then off to see a floating village & a pearl farm. The floating villages surprised !me as they are so modern! Well built and equipped, a world away from the wooden shacks I expected. It turns out !many of the families have been relocated to a: protect the bay and b: so they have access to education, healthcare, etc. Back to the boat for tea and then the guide did his best to get a karaoke going but no-one took the bait (much like with the squid fishing afterwards) Next morning it was up and across to the bungalows near Cat Ba island for a relaxing overnight on a private island. Had some teething troubles when I got there (that’s a whole other long story) but otherwise it was an incredible location and setting, plus the weather was kind and turned very warm.
Met some lovely people over the course of the 2 days, including a former member of the Maynooth Gospel Choir who works in Glasthule (where I live) and a couple from Cork who saw DGC at electric picnic this year! Small world!! 🙂 Finally back in Ha Noi this evening, need to recharge quickly as off on a 3 day motorbike tour around the valleys to the south of here from 8am tomorrow. I’m gonna need a holiday to recover from this holiday, although I’m not sure work would buy into that! 🙂