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. No pictures needed. Nice, big, giant. cave. OK, fine, here's a photo.

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.

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.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saturday June 30 - Going North

We drove north to Ninh Binh Province in North Vietnam. I think the trip was an hour or two

First thing we did was stop at the Trang An Grottoes. You get in a boat, and your rower starts rowing. You CAN row if you like, but you don't have to. The rower did the majority of the work. Apparently there are a LOT of rowers. A rower might work once every 5 days and have other jobs ... this is just the occasional gig. So, this was our first view as we rowed out. The mountains are called karsts.

The landscape was really beautiful and we mostly we enjoyed watching the scenery.

We were headed to caves. This was one ... you can zoom into the middle of this photo and see the caves ... low to the waterline!
You had to watch your head inside the cave. They were dark, low, and very very still.

Eventually we came to ... a place were we got out and walked up 800 steps up and over a karst, and to a temple area. Here we are on the steps.

And K at the temple.

And some behind the temple pictures.

After that we were hot and headed to the hotel. We stayed at the Tam Coc Horizon Bungalow in Hoa Lu, which I would recommend for everybody! Wonderful people, amazing food.

Lunch, or at least some of it. SO. DELICIOUS.


Then we had a rest, and then a bike ride to a temple. Dirt roads, ducks, motorbikes. This is the view along the route we took.

The temple was built into the mountain, basically. Here is the entrance.

The first level of the temple, the Celeste temple, where they said was the origin of Buddism.

Second level, in the mountain. See the waterfall? You walk in and behind and around through the cave.

And then out and up again.
The view. The sun was starting to get lower.

And then up some more. We walked up and up and up. Where the people are at the bottom is where I took the above photo.

This was the last level. You could climb up from here but 1) there was a sign saying not to and 2) we were wearing flipflops. Not sure it wasn't possible, but we decided to stay at the lower temple and not trek up the rocks to that higher peak above A.
The roof of the temple.

And dinner. DINNER. My favorite bit:

And the next morning, this was the view of the karst from our room.