Should I say the cheesy line? ok. Good Morning Vietnam!

Halong Bay Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 10 › view all entries
Cruising on Halong Bay, looking out from the "Amazing Cave"
I got to Vietnam and started off my time there by spending 5 hours worth of dock time on the ship because of being only 20 minutes early to my China field trip instead of 30 minutes early.  Oh well.  I was mad at first because they didn’t tell me until the night before and didn’t allow me to adjust when I served my time, it had to be that next morning and I had a flight to catch.  But my flight was fortunately delayed and I got an email the night before saying it was by enough time that I could serve my dock time and still have enough time to wander around Ho Chi Minh City before going t catch my flight to Saigon.

So as soon as I got out into the city, I wanted to start looking for a place to maybe ave a dress made, since I’d heard it was kinda the thing to do in Vietnam.  Of course, right when my friend and I started to walk around, it started pouring so crazy that I felt like I was in one of those war documentaries.  Luckily, I accidentally stumbled on to the street with the dressmaker I was looking for.  I got in there, and realized how fancy this place was.  They provided us with tons of books and magazines to look through and even offered internet if we needed it to look up more dress styles.  I found a dress I really liked and picked out my colors and got measured.  It was very exciting.  Now I would have a dress to wear to the Lucasfilm Christmas party, yay.

I then had just a little bit of time left s my friend and I went and got our nails done really tacky-like for maybe $3.  It was so funny, it felt absolutely the same as if I was in a nail shop at home with the Vietnamese women.

I then went to the airport, found a bunch of other SAS kids who were looking to join on our trip, and landed in the airport in Saigon with a driver from our hotel waiting for us.  We got to our hotel and loved it, a lot nicer than we had expected.  And especially since there was free internet and I could update a bunch of pictures from China.  And I loved waking up to free breakfast of chocolate crepes, yummm.

We got picked up in the morning by our guide for our Halong Bay cruise and started our long 3 hour drive out to the coast.  In our van there was a Swedish family on vacation with their two kids and both sets of grandparents.  It was really cool, I sat next to the husband and traded questions and facts about each of our cultures.  He talked to me about the health system, how much vacation time he gets (which is something like 6 weeks, crazy!) and about the structure of their government (which is something like a constitutional  monarchy with a lot of different prime ministers for specific areas).  He was surprised to hear that there were vegetarians in the US because he thought they all ate cheeseburgers.  I told him I still do eat cheeseburgers just that I put my French fries on instead of the meat.  

When we got to the shore we saw the harbor and all the junk boats that set out on the bay, it was so crowded, you had to crawl over like 4 boats to get out to yours.  We got on board and it was so beautiful.  There were 3 floors.  The bottom floor was where all the rooms were, the middle floor was the dining hall, and the top deck was beach chairs and perfect for the beautiful view.

The meals were awesome.  They were all like 5 course meals and I had my own dish for each course that was vegetarian, it was so cool!  For once I didn’t just get celery and rice for a meal.  Then we started going closer in towards the caves and getting to see just how amazing everything was.  Every picture I took looked just like a post card.  I couldn’t believe all this I got to see  and for so cheap.

We got to the “Amazing” cave, and got down inside and saw all the stalactites and stalagmites.  I loved it.  All the lighting was so neat and moody.  It was really sticky hot down there though and it became a little hard to breath.

When we got back on the ship the kids all went out swimming but my friend and I stayed on deck taking care of this adorable little baby.  She belonged to this woman who was in her 50’s that came all the way to Vietnam with her best friend to adopt this little girl.  They were at the very end of their stay in Vietnam after 3 weeks and decided to just go for a halong bay cruise before they went back home.  the two women wanted to go swimming so we stayed in and played with the baby.  Her name was Samara and she was adorable.

That night the moon was an amazing red and looking at all the boats on the water was just beautiful.  In the morning we woke up early to see the sunrise but the sky was so hazy that there was no real sunrise, the sky just slowly got brighter and brighter.  Once the sun was up, we all got into kayaks and started through all the caves and hidden lagoons.  Although my partner had never really kayaked before and it was totally exhausting for me to do the work for both of us, it was still an unbelievable sight and I loved it.  Especially when we got back to the ship and just jumped out of the kayaks and started swimming around.  I got to watch the little Swedish children with their water wings and climbing up the side of the ship and jumping back into the ocean.  It really was fun.

Once back in Hanoi, we kind of just strolled around, and made friends with the boys working at our hotel.  I stayed on the internet mostly while my friend Jennifer did all the talking, and pretty soon she had secured us a free guide for the city the next day in the form of our concierge.  The next morning he took us to a little stand on the street where we sat on mini stools on the sidewalk and ate really delicious, well… things.  I'm not sure what they were, but he said the dumpling wrappers were made of the rice milk left over after cooking rice and put into pancake like form.  Then they put in a bunch of meat and vegetables and wrap them up like dumplings and steam them.  Then they serve it with dried salty vegetable flakes on top that look like sawdust, and you dip it in a bowl of vinegar-like sauce.  He was kind enough to ask them to make me a plate without meat, which they could hardly understand why youd want it if it didn’t have meat in it, but they did it anyway.  And it was so yummy.  I hope I remember to email him and ask the name of them again so I can look for them in the future.

After breakfast we walked to the first university in Hanoi.  It was so cool.  They had big turtle statues with plaques above each one posting the names of the best students.  These names started as far back as like the 1300’s and were as recent as this year.  He told us it has always been considered good luck on exams if you rub the turtle’s head, and sure enough, we saw many students come rub the turtles’ heads.  He then took us to light incense and make wishes at the shrine in the middle.  There were also really beautiful koy ponds with awesome water lilies growing all over the surface.  We took pictures in front of them.

Then we went to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and museum.  I was excited to see his mausoleum because I got to Mao’s in china and I liked it.  But as we got in line, we realized that it would take a very very long time, and he had to get to class later that afternoon, so we opted to just look at the exteriors of the buildings, sadly.  Then we caught a cab to the Lenin statue they had.  I needed to look for political art for my Art and Revolution class, and I had heard about this statue and thought it would be perfect.  It was really cool, and I took a bunch of pictures standing in front of it.  The statue was really a lot taller than I had imagined, probably 4 times my height.  Which I suppose is fitting for a tribute to the previous founders of communism.

After that our guide had to get going to school so he took us to the hotel and said goodbye.  We had to get going ourselves back to the airport to catch our flight, so we packed up, checked out, and headed there.  We got back to the ship in time to grab some dinner and made plans to meet up the next day to pick up our dresses together.

We headed out the next day, in the rain once again.  I was really nervous getting to the dress shop because I was just really sure that it wasn’t going to be at all what I had pictured.  Fortunately, I was more than pleasantly surprised and it was so beautiful and exactly what I had hoped it would be.

The rest of the day we just wandered around Ho Chi Minh City and stumbled upon this propaganda poster shop.  They weren’t the normal reproductions you usually see, but really the real original prints from the war.  We sat down and started a conversation with the lady working there.  My friend got into a discussion with her about her trip to Cambodia, and the shopkeeper told us all about her life and her experiences with Americans and the conflicts of dating an American man.  we stayed there for quite some time talking with her, and in the end I bough two posters.  One was a thank you poster to all the people around the world that had protested the war in Vietnam.  In the front was an American girl with red hair holding up an anti war sign.  It really caught my attention.  The other was a peace poster from a 1986 conference pleading against the use of nuclear weapons.  I am really happy with both posters, and with the new friend we made.


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Cruising on Halong Bay, looking ou…
Cruising on Halong Bay, looking o…
Halong Bay