Ha Long Bay & Sapa
06.07.2008 - 11.07.2008 35 °C
Hey guys. Just arrived back in Hanoi and we are completely exhausted. We have had an exciting ride these past five days. Where do I start...
When I wrote last, Michelle and I just arrived from a trip up to Ha Long Bay. That trip was quite nice. We were sick of Hanoi with all the honking and craziness and needed to get away. The trip consisted of 2 nights and 3 days. Our first night we slept on the boat with 10 other people. Oddly enough including us there were 6 Americans. Odd since we've only seen or at least talked to a handful of Americans. That first day we explored some caves and went for a swim. The swim was short lived since I got a pretty nasty sting from a jellyfish. It hurt like hell and blistered from my neck down to my chest. Thankfully the pain went away several hours later.
The next day we explored more of the bay from the boat and were dropped off at a large island that was full of tourists. We had lunch and then set off to another island called Monkey Island. It's a "national park" where supposedly monkeys live. I put national park in quotes since there was trash all over the place and very dirty. Nothing like national parks in the states. A few of us decided to go on a hike that pointed us up a mountain to find the monkeys. As soon as the hike started, Michelle was not having it. It began with a large climb up a cliff of rocks that you use a rope to get up. I pushed on, but soon regreted my decision. After the first initial climb, the group ran into sharp jagged granite rock as far as the eye can see. It was insane!!! After 15 min of walking on this, I turned back. I was really scared and could have hurt myself badly or died. I'm glad Michelle didn't go. One of the guys that was part of our group was a middle aged man that worked for the World Bank. His job is environmentally based with regard to carbon footprints and preservation. He had a lot of bad things to say about the way the government set up the hike/park. Totally messed up. Don't worry, we have lots of pictures and video of everything. The crazy thing of it all was once we were back on the beach, 15 min later the monkeys came to us and walked on the beach. A little too convenient I say...
We then arrived back to Hanoi the following day in the afternoon. After only four hours back, we hit the train up to Sapa. It was an overnight train with very nice amenities. Us foreigners spend the money to have better accommodations. We arrived in Sapa at 5am and took a taxi bus to town. As soon as we got out of the taxi, we were bombarded by people wanting us to stay at their hotel. After looking at a couple of places we settled on a place with an amazing view of the mountains.
One of the things I have noticed is that the Vietnamese people are in your face and it can be insane and annoying. Once you see past this, most are nice. One guy on our Halong Bay boat was one of the most travelled people I have ever met. He said that the people here are the worst he's encountered.
So...back to Sapa. Michelle and I decided on just going to explore the scene and decided not to shower or nap. We hired a couple of tour guides and went on a 7 hour hike. All around the town are tribe people that live in the mountains and make it their job to harass the shit out of you and ask you to buy things. They make clothes and work in the rice fields that cover the area. These people are relentless. On the hike, about 7 of them walked with us and were so helpful and sweet. Once we stopped for lunch, these same sweet, helpful people swarmed at us like a bunch of wasps asking us to buy stuff. I've never seen anything like it. Our guides couldn't even help. We bought a few things, but that wasn't enough. We finally got rid of them and picked up on their routine. For the rest of our hike, other villagers came up to us and said "NO" very forcefully. You feel badly acting that way, but it's the only way to get rid of them.
Along the hike there were definitely hairy moments, but Michelle kicked ass. She faced her fears and rocked. The tribe people helped Michelle along the way, made little animals with the foliage around among other things.That night we met a really nice Dutch couple in the room next door, had a beer and talked about our stories. We'll have to tell you more stories about the people we have met later. One thing they did tell us was about their motorbike adventures. We figured why not try something completely different and very far from our comfort zone. After 10 min, I caught on quick. Learned how to shift and just go. It was amazing, freeing and wild all at the same time. Now that we know how to ride the bike, we can do it in other cities. It's the only way to get away from the people and tours.
While we were riding we ran into multiple people from our boat trip at Ha Long Bay. Totally cool! Sapa was amazing. Once you got away from the town, the views were cleansing and somewhat emotional. All the hills around you are full of rice patty fields. These people live in primitive conditions, with rudimentary ways of getting electricity, their irrigation systems, but the engineering of how they farm is something to marvel at. But get this, they have satellite TV. What's that all about? Dad can't get GPS in Hawaii, but these people have satellite dishes. Oh and everyones cell phones here work EVERYWHERE!
We left Sapa that night after the ride and took the taxi to the town with the train station. This is where we got fucked in the ass. Our tickets were sold to someone else. After about an hour haggling and dealing with everything, another travel agent got us some tickets on the super posh train. We had to pay an additional $120 US to get on. We will get a refund of $60 for our tickets, but too little to late. The stress and anxiety wore me out. We finally got in this morning at 5, took a taxi to the hotel we've been using as a home base here in Hanoi and take a bus down to a town called Hue tonight at 6pm, then to a town called Hoi An a day later. From what we've heard from people along the way, Hoi An is a place to relax. Jeff mentioned the same thing before we left. We need to just chill. The beaches are close to Hoi An which is nice. The funny thing is that the beach close by is China Beach. The one the US GI's went to. I always heard of that beach. We'll see. After Hoi An we head west to Laos.
Oh...the food has been really nice. We've had the opportunity to have some western food because the Vietnamese cater to the tourists.
We miss and love you. So many more stories to tell when we see/talk to you. Check out our Flickr page since we just uploaded some new pictures
Kevin & Michelle
p.s. You lean how to live dirty here. The conditions of Vietnam are wild. Amazing in it's own right, but not the health standards of the states.
Oh and Mikey...Set us up on your Flickr account.