Well dedicated reader, as you are aware, most of our days here will be spent as part of a tour group. The first 10 days are here in Vietnam and the last 7 in Cambodia and Thailand. ( I am starting this Friday at noon, who knows when I will finish?)
Your humble scribe apologizes if this entry is a bit disjointed. As you will see it is written over several days on busses, a boat a train and elsewhere.
Nancy and I met up with our group yesterday afternoon but prior to that we had an hour bike tour with our new best friend, Thinh.
Since he rode us around, we have run into him several times and he calls out to us by our names! You would think that in a city of 8 million, this is unlikely. We have also seen the same wandering t-shirt lady, Tiu, about 5 times, always imploring us to buy more from her since she ‘has not sold one shirt today’. Last time we bumped into her and she used the same line I suggested very nicely she pursue a new career.)
Please know there are hundreds of these ladies & gents plying their trade in the Old Quarter.
He took us over many of the Hangs and Phos we had walked previously. This was a real blast to do!
After leaving Mr. Thinh, we had a refreshing Vietnamese coffee at a local brewery (those of you who know me well are probably picking yourselves up off the floor but the beer was the same old yellow fizzy stuff of old.)
Lunch was at the TripAdvisor #1 Hà Nội restaurant (Hong Hoai) where we went for the local delicacy Bun Cha. This is a pork dish. They had run out and were VERY apologetic….Oh well, we will return tonight.
Nope, we had dinner with the Phong family (as our guide Phong Nguyễn calls us). He did tell us that we will return to Hà Nội tomorrow in time for dinner, so maybe.
We left Hà Nội this morning to go to Halong Bay for a cruise on a boat where we will spend the night before going back to the big city to catch an overnight train to Hué.
I believe I have mentioned traffic issues with you before. We are on a small but big and comfy enough bus for the 3-4 hour ride. Well, here is a video I shot a short time ago. Good thing Nancy is sitting a few rows behind me and is not watching the road!
Of course she will never complain of my driving or Vespa riding again
Here is a farmer headed to market (I think) next to the bus.
So keep with me on the time line here please. It is now 6am Sunday. Im writing from the Hà Nội to Hué train. We have about 4 more hours to go. This ride is rockin, rollin, bumpin and grinding! Hard to sleep but possible as you can see from my bunkies here.
Even harder to type on my phone on the train.
We are four to a room. You’ll have to ask Nancy at some point how she enjoyed her night sleeping with 3 men!
OK, now I have to back up to the boat ride. We arrived in Hà Long in time for lunch on the boat.
The food was quite good and the crew took care of those with food issues. Our room was larger than we had in some Roma hotels and comfortable. The 1st pic is a fishnet made from a carrot and the second is a lantern out of an onion!
After lunch, a kayak paddle around a bay and a sighting of a rare red bottom monkey. I was the back seat paddler and official team photographer. Toward the end of our journey I said to Nancy that we must’ve paddled 17 miles that hour and she said “Well I have.” I guess she does not realize how important the pictures are. Each one is a thousand words. We are ALL happy (you readers especially) that I am using so many photos instead of words, no?
Back to the boat, onto the tender to a stair climb to a peak. Only 437 stairs but uneven, crowded and slow going due to the crowd. But we were awarded with a beautiful view. At the bottom of the hill was a lovely beach where we had a refreshing plunge in waters from the Gulf of Tonkin.
Dinner and chatting on the boat watching the sunset. Our group, by the way, is FANTASTIC…and we are the token Yanks!
Saturday morning on the bay was misty but photogenic.
After a quick meal we were off to Sung Sot Cave. Quite awesome!
After a cruise around
we had lunch got back on the bus to Hà Nội and time to wander again. Phong took us to a restaurant to sample another local delicacy – Egg Coffee. Yup, the take a egg yolk (free range of course) beat it for 5 minutes and add honey, condensed milk, cinnamon and cocoa. Pour it over very strong coffee and yum yum yum! They do it with beer to but I could not do that one – mon dieu!
N&I finallly found a Bun Cha place but only after having Happy Hour with a little shopping at our table. The Bun Cha was delish as was the fried rice. Nancy has ordered that several times and loves it.
The streets on a Saturday night are nuts. In addition to the usual insanity, some roads are closed to vehicles (except those scooters that ignore the closures) so night markets can be set up. That forces the scooters to other streets making those nutsier but the markets are cool.
Plus, the street that the cops keep shutting down to diners is ok for outside tables on the weekends.
Off to the train station and onto the iron horse to Hué. One of our fellow travelers rented a room at our hotel for $10 as a shower room. This is something the hotel has arranged with our tour company. Pretty good deal. Most of us partook as there ain’t such facilities on the choo choo. It was quite refreshing and watching the room key come back to the lobby and the next person grabbing it and coming back 5 minutes later was neat. I was also able to get the good news of the Astros winning again!
Today will bring a motorbike tour of the area. Each one of us as a passenger. Should be a blast.
(I’ll stop for now but catch you up later. One reason for this lengthy opus is no innernet connection for a couple days so I can write but not send.)
OK – it is now Monday morning and we had quite a Sunday. First though I will describe the rail journey. Oy is a pretty good word for it. Want more? All right –
Nancy really liked it because she rarely gets to sleep with three men at the same time! Our room had four bunks and we shared with Aussie Tom and tour guide Phong. All three of them snored. Their cacophony was only slightly muted by the train’s own symphony of auditory squeaks, rattles, moans, bangs, booms, scrapes, creaks, crashes and wails made the sound of nails on a chalkboard something to anticipate with pleasure.
Now, let’s talk about the motion – I love rock and roll but only the music. Coupled with the noise, I did not have a great night. The motion worked for some to rock them to sleep but not me. I did manage to doze a bit but not much. My bunkies has no problems though. You saw the sleeping arrangements a bit earlier.
After dawn, most of us congregated in the hallway and watched the countryside.
This train was not the Orient Express or the City of New Orleans but it did get us from A to B.
B is the city of Hué. We were bussed to the hotel, showered off the train sweat and miasma. Then came the motorbike tour.
This was a crackup. We had so much fun and were driven all over the area. We went to a little village where we were given a rice processing demo, a covered bridge, canoes made of bomb shells,
lunch at a Buddhist pagoda, Bunker Hill overlooking the Perfume River where the French and US Army built lots of bunkers, the Citadel, à tower, royal tomb and other highlights
The REAL highlight though was the actual scooter rides. We were all over the roads, trails, footpaths, driveways, front yards, backyards, sideyards, living rooms and goat tracks.
Dinner was on our own but as with many of the ‘optional ‘ activities, we all had dinner together.
Okay, now it is Tuesday morning and we are in Hoi An – a beautiful place but more on this place next time. Until then, OMB! (To be splained later…)
Btw, we heard the Stros are 1 win away from sending Dudgers home & the Seahawks had a great game! Good news all around.