Jan 25-28: Hoi An to Hanoi

Finally! A hotel that has free internet and photo uploading! This morning we arrived at 4.30AM in Hanoi, but unfortunately our rooms weren’t ready until noon, so we spent the time sitting in the hotel lobby (ugh). But first, let me fill you in on how we got here…

Where my last post left off, on Monday, we were departing from Hoi An for the fou-hour bus ride to Hue. Although southern Vietnam only has two seasons, northern Vietnam has four, like the northern hemisphere. Once we crossed the mountains, the weather was noticeably cooler and wetter, and it was pouring when we arrived in Hue.

Us dressed up in traditional Vietnamese Court costumes. Can you spot me? (Hint: I'm on the left side)

Monday night we went to a restaurant that serves a traditional Royal dinner, complete with authentic costumes! Each of us got to dress up as a member of the Vietnamese royal court, and was served dinner by servers in costumes, while listening to a traditional Vietnamese band. The food was bland, as it was traditionally, to avoid the court being poisoned, but was served in intricate designs and shapes. Anyone who knows me knows I love Halloween, so I had a lot of fun. It was pretty entertaining just to watch everyone dressed up in the costumes!

Tuesday was an early day, I think I mentioned before that we were scheduled to do a motorbike tour, but it was raining

The view from the back of a motorbike. Don't worry, I'm still holding on with one hand.

all day on Monday, so we were a little apprehensive about getting on the back of a motorbike in the rain. But have no fear! The bike guides arrived in the morning with ponchos! The ponchos are really funny looking, they have little windows in front of the crotch area – no, it’s not a peep show, they are there so the drivers can put their ponchos over the handlebars and still see their dashboard! HA HA! All thirteen of us climbed on the backs of the motorbikes, and were treated to the highlight of my trip so far. Even though we were wet, wearing ridiculous looking ponchos, muddy, and helmet head, it all added to the experience! The guides took us through the town to see the traditional Vietnamese “conical hat” being made, to get amazing views of the perfume river, and to a pagoda where we were served lunch by female monks. We even got a nap afterward! Amazing!

Aussie Day!

Since Tuesday was Australia day, we all went out at night to a local bar to party like an Aussie! Too bad the Aussies were out-drank by two Canadians, two Brits, and an American. LOL. We all had a great night, evidenced by the fact that only one Aussie got up for our citadel tour the day after (plus two Brits and one Canadian – me!). I’m pretty proud that I managed to get up bright eyed and bushy tailed after a bucket (1 bucket = 7 shots) of vodka pineapple, 1 beer, and five free shooters 🙂 I rock!

Wednesday we were set to leave Hue for Hanoi at 2.30PM, but there were still sights to see. Our tour leader, Dat, took four of us (the only four that managed to wake up un-hungover) to the old King’s residence, which was heavily bombed during the American/Vietnam war. Only three of the buildings remain today, and although restoration work is well underway, it will be a long time before it is restored to it’s former glory.

The overnight train for Hanoi took about twelve hours, and we passed the time by eating a dinner of makeshift

Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum

sandwiches (baguette, salami, and laughing cow cheese), playing games (I’m going to a picnic and I’m bringing…) and sleeping (Zzz..). This morning we went to see Ho Chi Minh, who the Vietnamese affectionately refer to as “Uncle Ho”. Ho Chi Minh established independence for Vietnam in 1945, so he is the national hero. Although his wish was to be cremated upon his death in 1969, the Vietnamese people (read: government) decided that this wasn’t good enough for their beloved leader, so they had him embalmed instead, and placed in a glass box inside a mausoleum. To this day, Ho Chi Minh receives thousands of visitors each day, who troop past, double file, no cameras, phones, or camcorders allowed.

Well that brings me up to date (finally), although I’m taking bets on how long it will take me to fall behind again. Tonight we will go to see a water puppet show, which originated in Hanoi over 1000 years ago. Tomorrow we will depart for Halong Bay (yay!) and spend one night on Cat Ba island, the only inhabited island in the Bay. It is wet and quite cool in Hanoi, so it is doubtful we will be swimming, but the forecast calls for sun so I have my fingers crossed.

Before I forget, some people are asking why I’m not posting anything on Facebook or doing notifications about the blog on there. Vietnam is a communist country and as such has blocked the use of Facebook. I’m using a proxy server to creep around on occasion, but I can’t post to my wall or anyone elses, look at photos, or read messages. I promise I’ll get back to civilization when I get to Laos. I also look forward to posting some photos to a gallery on the blog in the next week so I can show off some more of the amazing places we have been and things we have been doing. There just isn’t enough room in each post! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experience, as always I’m having a blast, but missing home all the same.



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