Thursday, 10 May 2012

Hanoi - Ha Long Bay

Dear Ethel Family and Friends,

It’s been 2 and a half years since we departed Vietnam last, November 2009, and since my last post on this blog in Feb 2010, life has changed, I ended up getting a Government job in Canberra but not before unpacking our house in Coolum, only to re-pack and moved back to Canberra again. We rented the Coolum house once more and have bought a house in Canberra as well, small and modest but comfortable and weather protected.

Enough of life in Canberra, the purpose of this blog is travel! We haven’t had a decent holiday since we arrived back and as Louise’s brother Ian and his wife Sally had let us stay with them for our first six months in Canberra, so we wanted to take them on holidays with us to…Vietnam! We are spending 3 weeks, starting in Hanoi, out to Ha Long Bay, down to Hue, Da Nang and to Ho Chi Minh City.

We departed Canberra and caught the bus up to Sydney staying overnight in town, so as to capitalize on our favorite Spanish restaurant, mmm Sangria, Tapas and Paella. With an early start and time differences it took us approximately 18 hours door to door to reach Hanoi and with a white knuckle descent into the airport through an electrical storm, we were grad to arrive, around 2.30am home time.

The new day brought the excitement of Vietnam back to us, starting with breakfast and the unique way the Vietnamese do things, Louise had a boiled egg that arrived at the table as a yoke in a bowl of hot water with some herbs floating in it, and my omelet was in fact a fried egg but that’s ok because it is an adventure we are on and we are use to it. We eased Ian and Sally into it with a walking tour around the city, stopping for coffee and observational studies (people watching).

We asked our hotel for a full city tour with driver for the next day, he came up with a price of $100 US per person, we declined and I commented to Ian that they had mistaken us for rich fat bastards, where as we are really only fat bastards. We did negotiate a better price and the following day and visited the Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and complex and West Lake Pagoda with a very funny guide. We also had lunch at Koto, a celebrity chef run establishment helping street kids to learn new skills, superb food.

The last two days and overnight we spent at Ha Long Bay, about 4 hours there and back but a stunning area. Louise & I have been here about 10 years ago, but it is always a spectacular sight. We stayed on junk boat overnight, our boat catered for 10 people with individual ensuite cabins. Apart from the cruising through the spectacular limestone pinnacles, we did some kayaking through caves into seclude lagoons a heartbreaking climb up one of the mountains for a spectacular view and swimming. A cooking demonstration ended up being a great excuse to roll and eat our own fresh spring rolls however I prefer the ones made for me. Happy hour had a two for one cocktail deal that proved too hard to resist and all meals included seafood and at least 10 courses.

We arrived back in Hanoi this afternoon and Ian and Sally really seem to be enjoying them selves so we went to a local restaurant popular with tourists that had a good observational studies area. We are in Hanoi for another 3 days and then catching the train to Hue, so hope to have some new then, all the best

Ric, Louise, Ian and Sally

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