Monday, February 27, 2012

Vietnam 31: Halong Bay (Part III) The Cruise Continues

by Pa Rock
Dr. Murphy stares across the bay
Cultural Explorer

Here are a few more photos from our cruise on Halong Bay, one of the most beautiful natural  wonders of the world.  Also included are a couple of pictures of some of the courses of the gourmet meal that was served on board the cruise boat.  The meal was so good!

Yummy prawns
Baked fish or art project?
A floating fishing village on Halong Bay
Our vessel is boarded by Somali
fruit peddlers
"The Fighting Cocks"  famous landmark on
Halong Bay
Boat weaving through the islands
More tour boats in the distrance
They're everywhere!  They're everywhere!
Marine lounge chair topside
Another view from topside
More tour boats
And another boat
Safely back at port

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vietnam 30: Halong Bay (Part II) The Cave

by Pa Rock
A view of the dock at the cave island.  Our boat is in the
distance waiting for us to finish the tour of the cave.
Cultural Explorer

We had been navigating the bay for about thirty minutes when our boat docked at a large island.  We stopped there to view a very unique cave that had been discovered in the years following the Vietnam War.  Much of the cave was illuminated with a variety of colored lights, making it a very beautiful experience.  Our guide from Hanoi led us through the cave pointing out all of its unique features.  He said that he does the Halong tour at least once each week, making him very knowledgeable about the bay and the cave.

Construction area at the port
A long walkway out toward the
construction site
Lights in the cave
More lights, more cave
Still more lights, still more cave
Another cave shot
Another view of the cave's interior
And another view

Vietnam 29: Halong Bay (Part I)

Locals fishing with just line - no poles.
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  It consists of more than a thousand uninhabited islands and large limestone protrusions in what is truly one of the natural wonders of the world.  We were there for a four-hour cruise, but others come for cruises of up to several days.  It was overcast the day we were there, so my pictures aren't the greatest - but there are numerous sunny photos of Halong Bay all over the web.  Check them out.

One of hundreds of tour boats at Halong Bay
Our ride was a fairly large watercraft that could have accommodated twenty people or so, but it was ours exclusively - me, Murphy, and our guide.  We were given a sumptuous multi-course meal on the cruise - so much food that we didn't even touch the last plate that was brought to our table.  After the meal, one lady in the crew, I think she was the cook, brought out postcards and a collection of hand-embroidery for us to sort through and purchase.

It took us approximately four-hours to make the long drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay.  Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook) and his entourage had been there a few days earlier, but they flew directly to the bay by helicopter.  His way was more convenient, but we got to see a lot more of the countryside.  If I believed in Facebook, I would post my photos of the drive up there so Zucky could enjoy them also.

Another tour boat - most had plants on board
Daniel Murphy, PhD
Looking out of the dining room of our boat
Topside of our boat
Our Hanoi guide
Another cruise boat weaving through the islands
Some small islands of Halong Bay

Vietnam 28: The Road to Halong Bay

Some tall, narrow housing.  This style is common in
the northern part of Vietnam
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

We left Hanoi early on our first morning there for a road trip of about four hours to the beautiful Halong Bay.  While en route we stopped once for gasoline, and also made a pit stop at a large roadside establishment that sold food and drinks and employed many people making art and marble and cement statuary.  Here are a few views of the drive north.

Our guide at the gas station.  Note construction in
Ladies doing embroidery
Marble statuary at the rest stop

Marble lion

Marble Buddha oversees the plowing
Roman charioteer
Murphy taking pictures along the way
Street scene near Halong Bay
Another street scene
Playboy store?  And they say this is a communist
Sylvan dell

Vietnam 27: First Night in Hanoi

by Pa Rock
My hotel room in Old Hanoi
Cultural Explorer

Street scene outside of our hotel.  Like Saigon, Hanoi is
a veritable warren of motorbikes.
Our first evening in Hanoi involved checking into our hotel which was in the oldest part of the city - and then meeting our guide and heading out into the neighborhood.  We rode in bicycle rickshaws around the local streets before going to the Water Puppet Theater, a small theater with a live band and a puppet show that took place in an around an artificial lake inside of the theater.  It was entertaining to a point, but not something that I would bother seeing a second time.  After that the guide led us to a restaurant that had some American cuisine, and then departed for the evening.  Murphy and I walked some of the local streets after our meal.

One of the places I discovered that evening was a shop that sold copies of propaganda posters from the Vietnam War.  During the next couple of days I found four of those shops.  Making and selling copies of propaganda posters has become quite a cottage industry in Hanoi, suggesting that many of the tourists who visit the capital have some interest in viewing the war's history from the North Vietnamese perspective.

Enjoy the photos.
Hanoi Backpackers' Hostel located next to our hotel.
The people staying there had their own party on
New Year's Eve - and it was a  good one!
A closed shop.  Note the Chinese lanterns.
Some of the puppets on display at the Water Puppet Theater
An interesting painting on display at
the restaurant where we had dinner
Street view from the balcony of the
restaurant where we had dinner
Large stone tablet by thee lake honoring the 1,000th
anniversary of the founding of Hanoi
Red bridge across the lake in central Hanoi