Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Hair-raising Train ride and Halong Bay (one of the newest 7 Natural Wonders of the World)


After we were done trekking and cleaning up at the “day” hotel (a hotel you rent for a couple hours), we jumped on the night train back to Hanoi. 

Before we got to go SEE one of these 7 wonders, there was a price to pay.

I wrote about the night train UP to Sapa.  It was terrific.  I actually slept, thanks to Betty handing out earplugs.  I saved mine, I was going to need them.  Now, it was the same type of train, however, the tracks seemed much more “rickety”.  And again what went up, had to go down.  I seem to be the ONLY one who was awake for this, but on the way to Hanoi, we made a few stops, hooked up more cars, and then…headed DOWN the mountain.

There was at least twice during the night the train came to a complete stop and then SLOWLY, we headed down.  I mean DOWN.  put your hand out parallel to the floor…do it, I will wait.  Then drop your wrist down.  THAT is the pitch of the slope.  Now, imagine being in bed, trying to stay IN the bed, and praying, the train stays ON the tracks.  Two things came to mind as we crept along.  1) THIS is the stuff of CNN headlines: Train de-rails in Vietnam, Americans among the dead. 2) When I see my father again (he will be in heaven, I’m hoping for visiting hours with him) HE WILL KILL ME for being ON the darn train in the first place!  What WAS I thinking?????

Needless to say, we were fine.  Seeing this train travels daily, I’m sure they are pretty good at getting people down that mountain.

We cleaned up, had breakfast, and were on the bus to head to Halong Bay.  At the time, it was in the running to become one of the new 7 natural Wonders of the World (it has since been voted in).

First, we got to stop to do some shopping.  I liked this trip b/c while we had some time to shop, we did NOT do a ton of it. 

Vietnam is known for its’ lacquer wares, embroideries and silk. 

We stopped at a place where disabled young adults actually produce some of these works. They sit in rows and painstakingly paint pictures and embroider large and small pieces. The embroidery is done in long-stitch.

We only had a little over an hour so it was like a surgical strike once we got in there.

I bought a couple embroideries and a lacquer jar for change.  Diane bought a larger piece, and she got to meet the young lady that actually did the work.

Here is one lady at work and Diane with her artist! (click on the pic to see the detail!)

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After our quick shopping, it was off to the boat for our cruise.  We were only going to be on the boat for a night, but they had lots of things planned.  When I go back I would like to stay longer ON the boat! I would love to take Corey there for a weekend.

Here is the boat and the surrounding area:

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Halong Bay is known for the multitude of outcroppings.  These are limestone karsts.  Karsts take 20 million years to form under the impact of this very tropical environment. (I think its’ new designation is well deserved just for THAT!)

More pictures!  I wish they were better!

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We unpacked and pretty quickly moved off the boat to go on a tour of a local village that lives ON the water.  They even have a person on a boat who goes “houseboat” to “houseboat” to sell groceries.  Now, imagine…this is ON the water…so the human waste goes in the water…just sayin’…but they HAVE lived this way forever.

IMG_1378 Selling their wares.

IMG_1380Diane, Amanda, Betty, Hannah

Here is some local life:



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Don’t worry, the hats are borrowed!  That is me, Chris and Ramona!

We got done w/the tour and headed back to the boat.  I stayed on the boat while others went over to the Pearl farm.  Other people on the boat took the time to swim and some even jumped off the top of the boat!  It was great and much fun to watch.

We showered and had a lovely dinner and cocktails upstairs.  The next morning Diane and I had massages instead of heading off to the caves.  I enjoyed that, and it gave us a chance to pack and reorganize ourselves.

IMG_1409Here is most of our group…Sadly, two were missing from the shot Sad smile 

Next, a water puppet show, more Hanoi, eating a baby duck (oh my!) and the flight home.

Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite BBC shows went to Halong Bay and so I know how cool it is and you know how jealous I am of you! (not really, lol). It's on Allen's & my list of things to do in this lifetime or the next.