Hanoi, Veitnam -- (SBWIRE) -- 01/13/2010 -- Our last morning in Hanoi I got up at 5am - Wayne and Kev decided to stay in bed - and walked down to Hoan Kiem Lake where, at 6am each morning, many people congregate to practise Tai Chi all around the shores of the lake which has the Ngoc Son Temple on a little island in the middle. (Thanks Julie for the suggestion - I wouldn't have thought to do it otherwise!)
Music was playing from PA systems - groups of 6-10 people (it seemed to be mostly older men) were standing in line slightly bent forward. Each person was massaging the back of the person in front of them; every now and then the person at the front moved to the back so everyone got their turn. Having never done Tai Chi in my life before I joined one of the groups and copied, as best I could, what everyone else was doing. It wasn't easy.
After it was all over the lady next to me told me that Tai Chi takes years to perfect. Afterwards some people began playing Shuttlecock and Battledore by which time I had to make my way back. Initially getting a little lost I was saved by the hotel card which had a map on the back!!
Leaving Hanoi we embarked on a tour bus which took us to Halong Bay, a journey of about 3 ½ hours.
Our companions on the bus came from Belgium, France, Corsica, Bali, Hong Kong, Adelaide and Christchurch - all of whom we got to know during the next day and a half. Halong Bay - a UNESCO world heritage site - consists of a dense cluster of 1,969 limestone monolithic islands, each topped with thick jungle vegetation, which rise spectacularly from the ocean.
Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. We spent a night aboard a junk - we had an ensuite room with a double bed - docking twice, first to visit Hang Sung Sot cave then to board kayaks in which we did our own bit of exploration. (Thanks James for the lesson in kayaking!!)
The next night was spent at Tua Than Island which overlooked some of the bay. In the afternoon, when Kev decided it was too hot to leave an air-conditioned room I ventured out for a walk and ended up going into a Beauty Parlour/Spa where I had a pedicure, manicure (both complete with nailpolish), a haircut, shampoo and blow dry.
Vietnam is a land of contrasts, natural beauty and innovative people - it's also noisy and it always seems to be busy, busy, busy! While the great majority of people ride motorbikes which cost approx $US7,000, in Hanoi we saw two Bentleys being driven and they cost approx $US1 million each. At the bottom end of the scale are those who ride bicycles.
But despite the lack of material goods so cherished by most Australians the Vietnamese people appear happy and they couldn't be friendlier.
Today we said goodbye to Wayne who flies back to Australia to start work on Monday! Tomorrow Kev and I are off to Siem Reap, Cambodia - looking forward to some new experiences there.
Recommendation for trip in Ha long bay:
Ha Long bay cruise: http://www.indochinasails.com/
Ha Long bay kayaking: http://www.kayakhalongbay.com/