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Halong Bay

We went out to Halong Bay for two days and a night, after booking with a small travel agency in old town, Hanoi. I would guess they all sell the same tours on various boats with slightly different prices. Unfortunately, we didn't really get as far as Bai Tu Long Bay, as they said we would. This bay is much less crowded than Halong, which is full of tourist boats out to see the karst mountains jutting straight out of the water. As a result of all the traffic, it is far from pristine. We saw a considerable amount of floating garbage, and I'm sure that many boats just dump their waste in the water. Despite that, and the less then ideal weather, it was still quite beautiful. The fog added atmosphere to the limestone crags looming in the azure and tranquil sea.


We made the typical stops to a few of the islands, including one with a sizable cave, another with a small beach, and one with a tower on top of a mountain with a commanding view of the bay.



I couldn't resist

While walking around, and even on board, various passing boats were eager to sell us food and souvenirs. People actually live out on the bay, and there is even a floating school.


On our small junk, we had a fun, international group of people ranging from a Mexican psychology professor to a young couple from Corsica, a Finnish couple, and a Quebecois from the city of the same name. William, in his mid 30's, was enough to change my mind about professional soldiers. They are not all mindless killers. He had been to Afghanistan a number of times, and was going back there for another six weeks to finish his tour of duty. He clearly cares a great deal about the Afghani's, and is there because he thinks that he can do some good for the country. He is hopeful that when he and the Americans leave, the people will be better off, and there will be peace. We shall see. In any event, he was a delight to talk to, and had a great sense of humor to boot. We drank snake wine together, which is as awful as it sounds, and we went garbage fishing in the bay at night. What is that, you might ask? Well, the crew gave us fishing rods to catch fish, but all we managed to do was to snag pieces of floating debris. Others, including William also sang Karaoke. I abstained, given my inability to carry a tune.

Our group, inside the cave. William in shorts/white shirt, center left

It was a great experience spending the night on the boat, with occasional views of the moon behind the clouds and mountains. The food was also exceptional, and though this was far from a luxurious boat, they treated us well.

Not ours, but it was similar


The bus ride back to Hanoi was long, and then our cab driver in Hanoi got lost in the insane rush hour traffic. Luckily we were able to call Thuy, our hostess, and she was able to speak to and direct him. At a certain point, we had to get out of the taxi because we couldn't move. We had to walk several blocks on a main street, which was jammed with motorbikes, cars, regular bikes and people, so much so, that it was difficult to maneuver around without getting hit by someone. It was a relief to find our way through the maze of side alleys to Chez Linhlinh.

Posted by jonshapiro 10:39 Archived in Vietnam Tagged landscapes people boats tourist_sites

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It's interesting to hear what you say about William. It is good to be reminded that we shouldn't ever put people in a category that we design and then think our self-designated qualities apply to that person. We have to admit, that in this imperfect world we live in, we need a well-trained, thoughtful, moral and well-equipped warrior class of people who can protect us and question their superiors at times. (Chelsea Manning comes to mind) Fortunately in the US and in Canada, the quality and the good intent of most of the soldiers is outstanding. People aren't joining up to be able to kill people. they want to use their strengths as warriors for good. The trick is for the various governments to deploy them wisely. BTW, I hope Nanette recovers from her mono soon and while she is recovering you can keep her cheered up!! :-)

by Karen Lawrence

Completely agree, including Chelsea Manning

by jonshapiro

Happy to have left you with a good impression!

As I am currently living in Washington DC, studying at the US Marine Corps University, I must say that your american officers are very fine individuals. It is a very good experience and the US have so many smart people like you that the world is in good hands. I really enjoyed meeting you and I like your vagabonding.

by William Girard

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