24th September 2009

Vietnam – From Lao Cai to Halong Bay

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Right on the Vietnam side of the border is Lao Cai. From there we headed directly to Sapa. Luckily Chris had checked from the internet how much the ride from the border to the bus station was supposed to cost. You can easily be confused in a new country with their currency and prices if you don’t take care. Patiently we didn’t accept the first ride offers and searched for a decent priced taxi. The first guys had asked us to pay five times the correct amount. There was loads of small busses offering a ride to Sapa from the bus station, and again we had to bargain to get the correct price.

Sapa is quite a nice small town. There is lots of tourists and the restaurants offer western food, hamburgers, pizza and baguette. After a resting day we rented a scooter and drove along mountain roads watching green scenery and rice terraces which reminded of Inca terraces in Peru.
   
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The train ride from Lao Cai to Hanoi was quite an experience. The train seemed to have been used already in the war, iron curtains on the windows seemed to be bullet proof. When buying the tickets we had tried to ask how long does the journey take, but had got no answer. We knew the Vietnamese trains are not fast, and figured that leaving at 9 am we should probably arrive around 3 pm. At 3 pm we then asked around what time we will arrive in Hanoi. People were telling us 8 pm and we thought they were joking. But when the train employee also wrote 8 pm on a paper, we had to believe that the 350 km journey would really take 11 hours. Surely the train stopped many times, but we definitely had time to take pictures and videos of the Vietnamese scenery. Despite the fans it was a sweaty day, and oh by the way in Vietnam the hard seat actually means hard seat, not covered by leather layer like in China.
   
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There is not really anything to see in Hanoi, it is a noisy city, not to our liking. We stayed there only to get the visas to Cambodia and Laos. Vietnam is a country of motor bikes, and the choir of horns is even louder than in China. In the old city of Hanoi you have to constantly watch out for hundreds of motor bikes. The side walks are a joke, because they are full of food- or souvenir stalls, motor bikes or cars. In our hotel area on the weekends they played loud music at 7 am, which called the local people to clean up the area. On the weekday mornings the same loud speaker was giving out a “community announcement”. If this is not enough to wake you up in Vietnam, there will surely be someone renovating the house just behind your hotel window, hotel cleaning staff keeping a very loud tea party in the corridor, or hotel receptionist knocking your door three times the same morning starting 6 am by asking if you want to get your laundry done, or by letting you know that you cannot get tickets to the train you requested because she was too lazy to book them when they were still available. On the night trains and busses they wake you up with damn loud, hour-long “comedy” shows, even though the buss is full of foreigners who don’t understand a word of Vietnamese. Right, so no hope of sleeping after the cock sings in this country either.

Vietnamese houses are very funny looking. As they have been taxed according to their width, they are built very narrow and high. Sometimes only the front side of the house is painted and the sides left grey.
   
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Chris had planned that from Hanoi we would take a cruise on Halong Bay. Hanoi is full of travel agencies and the hotels also offer the cruises. So it is hard to know which one of the 6000 boats in the area to choose. The first night we happened to talk to a travel agent who also worked in the restaurant where we ate in. She seemed nice and professional, and we ended up booking a two day cruise from her. It was lucky we met her, as when entering the boat we were amazed. The boat was wonderful, and to make it feel very fancy, we were only two couples on the whole cruise.
When enjoying the welcome drinks we saw around 30 people getting into the next boat. Surely they might have paid a bit less than us, but this was definitely worth the extra dollars. In the price was included very tasty breakfast, two lunches and a dinner. Even though there was so many boats cruising on the bay, it didn’t bother at all as it is a large area, so they don’t need to move next to each other. It was so so relaxing to lay on the deck listening only the small noise of the engine. On the boat they played quiet music, and rest of the time Netta had “Pirates of the Caribbean” -tone in her head watching the boats and the amazing sceneries. In the afternoon of the first day we did some canoeing and after that we took a dip in the warm water. Although a bit too short, the cruise and the place were just perfect, one of the highlights of our whole trip.
   
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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 24th, 2009 at 16:35 and is filed under in English please !, news, voyages, worldtrip'09. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 3 responses to “Vietnam – From Lao Cai to Halong Bay”

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  1. 1 On September 25th, 2009, Nea said:

    Heya! It has been a while since I wrote in here. But have been reading about your adentures regurlarly of course :) All the things you have seen and done… Good thing that you find the energy to keep updating here as otherwise you might not remember everything after all those experiences. And Chris, you keep amazing me with all the planning that you see the trouble for. Never understood where you find your fuel to do all that. Especially since I have been very lazy here ever since finished with my studies and stopped working for my university. But heard that haven’t been the only one experiencing that after graduating. Just wish that this really is due to that and not just how I will be till the end of times… Well maybe could seek for a job as a tv critic or something as will be an expert in that pretty soon. Now again at work where arrived for some reason an hour too early today. My inner clock had been in a very wrong time. Weird feeling. But then again… Had some extra time to come and enjoy your blog! We are missing you both here and can’t wait to see you guys again!!

    Lots and lots of hugs! nea ;)

  2. 2 On October 8th, 2009, Soile said:

    Hei Netta ja Chris!
    Varasimme juuri liput Intiaan – minä olen siellä 4.-19. joulukuuta ja Petri on lähes kuusi viikkoa. Joten etteköhän muuta teidän matkasuunnitelmia siten, että nähdään Goalla? Milloinkas te tulette sieltä pois, teitä on kova ikävä!

    t. Soile

  3. 3 On June 3rd, 2010, Edulliset Lennot said:

    onpas nättejä ilmeitä ;o

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