Thursday, July 5, 2018

Thursday, July 5, Raspberry Hill.

The morning after we checked out we headed to "raspberry hill" which confused us a little -- were there raspberries at the top of this very large and very steep hill? I mean, that was the obvious interpretation and I'm about 100% literal so that was what I thought.

But it wasn't. It was about the terraced landscape and the iconic "raspberry" at the top. It was considered the quintessential image of Mu Chang Chai. So we climbed, up past this family using a gasoline powered rototiller, an ox, and human labor ...

Past this girl selling bracelets (I bought two)
 Past this older woman who tried to get us to try on hats and take photos and buy her wares (I did buy a purse)

To finally reach ... the raspberry hill.

And then going back down ... I think M was  especially interested in the red soil.

Then back to Hanoi for an early morning flight to the south.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4, more in the mountains.

The weather was cool. Cooler than I expected. Deliciously cool.

This was the view from M & my's window in the morning.

This is the view from our other window.

M & I took a walk, just down the road.  It was as green as Ireland.

And then breakfast and our 17 KM hike. Which we shortened to maybe 15 KM. We were still exhausted at the end.

A & K are doing their best to look bored. Success!

I want to dump in all the photos. But I'll try to be slightly selective. The scenery was just - wow.

We came from the right, and headed around to the left and then back down the valley ... Here at the apex of the curve.

We were tired, hot, a little wet, hungry, thirsty, and at least one of us needed to use the bathroom.

On the way back to the Eco Lodge we stopped at a hot spring spa. It was HOT. K and A are acting all chill like this was nothing but my feet were scalded, there way no way I could have gotten all the way in!!! This was the 2nd pool we stopped at. The first one (just over there to the right rear) was even hotter).

So cool.

ON the way back to the Eco Lodge we stopped. This seems a good photo of Hmong homes.

I only barely remember this dinner, but I do remember the soupe because A didn't eat it because it had dairy in it. I think we were tired.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

July 3, 2018

We drove from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai Eco Lodge in Nam Khat.

The drive was long. It was super hot.
We stopped here on the side of the road for water and to pee.

A & K on the side of the road                           
Drive some more. Stop for lunch at a place that looked like a garage. 

Inside also looked like a garage, and the bathroom was garage-level clean, Vietnam squatty style no toilet paper provided, no flush, no electricity. Handi-wipes come in handy again! But it apparently was also a place to cool down and relax in the mid-day heat. Because it was hot. Check out the men & women in the background just hanging out on a large platform.

My favorite dish here was the tofu and tomato. SO delicious!

Driving some more. We stopped alongside the side of the road to see the rice harvest.

We kept driving. Headed uphill, up mountain. Here's the view of the valley - panorama. With M's hand and phone on the left, I think!

Then we got there ... and they let us out so we could walk to the Eco Lodge.

This is where the Hmong people live. 

Here were our rooms

At the Eco Lodge we had dinner. We look like a sitcom. 

Favorite dishes of the evening, and pretty much all time. Pork yummies (Should that be the official name) and the merliton that we dipped in chopped peanuts.

Then bed.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Monday, July 2 - more Ha Long Bay

What, more pictures of Ha Long Bay? Yep, suffer through them.

Then we took a small junk to the caves, which are really quite big. And the second floor cave floods in the rainy season.

This was the view from the landing before we went in the cave.

This is us waiting to go in, kind of listening to the guide but not really, apparently

In the cave ... it was a cave. We went into the Amazing Cave. The reason it was called the Amazing Cave? Because there is a rock formation that is "rude." I don't have a photo of it. Or maybe I do. Use your imagination. But, it was a nice, big, giant. cave. OK, fine, here's a photo, but not of the amazing formation that looks suspiciously like a thingy.

And this was us going back to the boat.

We got going again and this was a famous rock. I think.

More gorgeousness.

Can we say Walnut Juice? I would have brought some home, but federal regulations prohibit it.

Lunch was a lot of things. This cabbage dish was a favorite, The peppers and ... tofu? scallops?? behind were good, too. What wasn't good was potato salad, deep fried lemongrass, and the deep fried fish. I liked the taro balls, but I don't think anybody else did.

And then we drove back to Hanoi!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Sunday, July 1 - Ha Long Bay

Back in the car to drive to Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province.

The legend that I heard (you may have heard another) behind the amazing limestone towers topped with rainforests is that the country was invaded by monsters, and the gods sent down dragons to rid the country of the monsters. The dragons encircled the monsters and turned into the limestone outcroppings trapping the monsters. Or that the dragons spewed thousands of pearls from their mouths, which turned into the stone towers inside and ringing the bay (and, in fact, there are pearls in the bay, too! So, that makes sense).

Either way, we took a cruise through the bay, which was amazing. This was the upper deck of our boat. M and I shared a cabin, and K & A shared another.

The food was pretty, and delicious.
Crab, with radish flowers (lovely, although crab isn't my favorite), I think this was squid with veggies (this was a favorite, the squid was EXCELLENT), and fish with veggies that A. deboned at the table. Seafood, obviously a theme in the bay!

But the scenery was just stunning.

And earlier (before nightfall)  we visited a pearl place and kayaked the bay for a bit, then they took us to a safe place (presumably!) and we went swimming in the bay! Just jumped right in.  Since it is ocean water it was easy to float, but no waves. So much fun. A & K below.

After swimming, but before dinner K let me take a picture.

And then we got a group photo!

Getting darker, nightfall:

Dinner was gorgeous and delicious. This is just a few of the dishes:
What was this? I don't recall at all. UPDATE: Green Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky.

Yummy jumbo shrimp (with heads) with cucumber or pepper flowers

Chicken with an odd but cute Miffy tomato.
Meat sticks ... we loved these, obviously, mostly gone:
 And I think this was potato, carrot, parsnip? I don't recall.

And then M and I went fishing, and caught nothing. I don't actually think we were supposed to.

And then, bed.