Ha Noi to Hue
01.12.2012 - 11.12.2012
I arrived in Ha Noi and set out from my Hostel to realise that my Lao clothes, which kept me cool in the heat, do not work well in the rain. I quickly bought a poncho however I was conned out of money, my naivety at the Vietnamese Dong playing a large part in this. Too many 0s! Oh well, £3's is the price I pay for not having my wits about me.
Ha Noi is full of motorbikes, all going in the right direction ... the one they want to go in! They don't always stop for red lights, they go on the wrong side of the road, its interesting. I took the advice i had been given and started walking, at a steady slowish pace, across the road. I made it in one piece, the key is to not hestiate at the curb, every time i hestiated that was it, i was stuck for 10 minutes gripped with indecision about when was the 'best' moment to cross. There is no best moment.
I spent a day exploring the sights, sounds, smells of Ha Noi. The water puppet theatre show was good to see, it uses tradition music, instruments and puppet theatry and tells a nice story of the Vietnamese people. The temple of literature was a must see for me and i happened there on a day when there were lots graduates celebrating. I ate at a cafe staffed by young people, the Artisan, Buin Duale Cafe, on Hang Hanh Street. By the second time there they greeted me as an old friend, inquisitive about where i had been (Sapa) and wanting to know where i was going. It was the kind of atmosphere you wanted to come back to. I was not along in revisitng this Cafe.
I spent a few days in the mountains of North West Vietnam on the boarder of China: Sapa. We trekked through rice paddy terraces, that meandered along the river with the H'mong women (a hill tribe) guiding us. Our guide was 19 years old with 8 month old baby boy, who was riding on the back off his grandma as she also helped pull us along and steady our feet. I didnt mention? its winter, misty, raining and cold (13oC - brrr). we could not see the rice terraces the first day or the mountains, it was so wet we were trudging along in rented wellies and glad of the 5ft women holding our hands (carrying babies on their backs) not letting us slip off into the mist. That night we stayed in a home stay in a Dzay (another hill tribe) home. All the hill tribes have different dialects. The furthest our guide had ever been was Sapa and spoke vietnamese and good English. The Hmong women get married at 15 - 17yr old.
I arrived back in Ha Noi at 5am having taken the night train from Sapa. I whiled away the time by the Lake in the old quater, watching as Ha Noi got up for its early morning exercises. Putting us all back home to shame! My next trip took me to Ha Long Bay where I stayed overnight in the bay, kayaked, swam, saw the impressives caves, and took in the beautiful surroundings of these small islands jutting out of the sea, thousands of them. After that I was hankering to watch a re-run of the top gear Vietnam special.
I took the overnight train to Hue - once a captial with a Citadel, imperial palace and tombs of the kings are. I took a lazy dragon boat up the Perfume river to the tombs of the Kings which were impressive. There were two different styles i visited, one had a French feel to it and the other was utterly peaceful.