Sunday, 9 October 2011

Halong Bay, Hue and Hoi An

Once the swarming typhoon had passed, we where able to head out to Halong Bay. The weather remained overcast, drim and not so pleasant but the important thing was it was dry. We arrived to our boat, the 'Cristina' around lunch time and tucked into a tasty treat of rice, chicken and spring rolls. We cruised throughout the bay, taking in the spectacular surroundings of this natural wonder. The islands each rise from the sea to form an unusual correlation of huge mounds of rocks, so vast and strong they feel slightly superior as you glide slowly pass them throughout the day. We visited a cave hidden within one of the islands and wandered through the mysterious layout of sculptured formations of natural earth. The evening drew upon us and we spent sunset diving off the boat into the bay, a cool ambiance was something I felt. The whole bay became settled and each boat rested and anchored into the seabed. The evening was shared with good people, eating, drinking and listening to some music. Thankfully, the boat didn't sway too much throughout the night, so my sleep was restful and not too much spinning room...literally. Halong Bay is a beautiful place, however, I felt slightly let down as it has become so popular with tourists alike, that it felt in someway to have lost its natural charm. The bay is filled with boats and people alike and this something I felt had a dampened feeling on me. The next day was spent on Cat Ba island, to which we trekked in the national park and climbed the highest the most unsafest structure on the island. The afternoon we visited Monkey Island, which was such a calm and tranquil place. This was the calmess I had searched for and the chilled atmosphere and warm water fulfilled my afternoon peace. That was, until the monkeys popped down to greet everybody, they where the most aggressive and vengeful monkeys I had ever seen. A Russian couple on our boat, naively enough wandered over to the monkeys only to be attacked. The lady had a huge bite on her hand and her husband received a deep scratch and lost his bag to the 'mummy monkey'. So, my peaceful afternoon then became one with me armed with a stick and a rock along with everybody else, standing by the edge of the water, trying not to make eye contact with these monkeys and pray for our boat to hurry back...must say it was an interesting day!

After Halong Bay, we headed south and reached Hue. This is a nice historic town, with lots of historic architecture and history into Vietnam. I spent most of the afternoon walking the small streets, speaking to locals and viewing the huge Citadel. The next day, we booked onto a tour called the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). This is the place where Vietnam had the border between North and South and the very point where a great deal of battle went on during the Vietnam/American war. It was such an intriguing tour, spent the day viewing war/battle bridges, Ho Chi Minh trail, significant military points and most importantly the underground tunnels. The tunnels where interesting because it was not so much the military who used them but the small town that lived there. Over 300 people built and lived in these underground tunnels for over 6 years, we explored these tunnels for over an hour and to my amazement it was so enchanting. The only lights where small oil lanterns and the tiny rooms, that barely fitted one person in nowadays but then housed 4 people was interesting to see. The underground tunnels housed its own school, maternity room, community room and much more, super fascinating.

After Hue, we headed further South again to Hoi An. This is a pretty place, filled with lots of street lanterns and friendly people. Hoi An is most famous for it's...tailoring. The place is great for making absolutely anything, every street is lined with clothes-makers, making everything from trainers, shoes, dresses, suits, cushions and much more. I have thankfully resisted, even though my inner self had a major battle not to buy...the coats are the nicest! Yesterday however, was spent battling the wrath and tailend of another typhoon that had hit Central Vietnam. The rain not only poured down but hit so hard to not let up for over 12 hours. We lost power in the morning for it only to return around 7pm, after spending 5hours walking around the city, I looked like a wet doll. It was as though I had gone fully dressed and jumped straight into a pool of water, soaked through. Thankfully, today is humid and dry and the small pockets of sunshine filter through, giving my body the sense of hope, that I will soon see sunshine fill the sky. I am setting off tonight on the sleeper bus to a place called Nha Trang, further south along the coast. Hopefully mr sunshine will pay me a visit and I shall hopefully be able to go to the beach and catch some waves. This is all hopeful and almost wishful thinking, giving the sporadic weather conditions Vietnam receive, so I shall shortly update you on whether I am fried to a crisp or soaked like a smelly dog...all shall be revealed shortly.

Cruising along Halong Bay

Some of the islands...natural wonder

View at the top of the mountain in Cat Ba National Park...after a scrambled trek

Arriving onto Monkey Island

The nasty monkeys fighting with one another

Happy the boat arrived back before the monkeys attacked us
Exploring the caves at Halong Bay

Admiring sunset onboard the boat

Settling in for my sleep upon the sleeper bus

Ducking through the underground tunnels

Enjoying the downpour of rain in Hoi An

Ok...not really enjoying the downpour of rain in Hoi An

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