Comin' at ya from the Hanoi airport! Vietnam has been...an experience. Ya, we'll say that.
When I wrote last we were enjoying some relatively quiet times in Sapa (compared to the bigger cities in Vietnam), and despite the fog descending on us during nearly the entire visit, we enjoyed our time there. We ended up making the trek to Fan Si Pan, as I briefly mentioned in my previous post, but once we made our way up there...the gondola was closed. HOWEVER, we were welcome to walk around the base and take some pictures, so the 6km round trip was worth it anyways.
On our way back to the hotel, we spotted a kitten emerging from the fog and making its way towards us. Feeling that it was safe, we knelt down for some kitten cuddles and what a sweet five minutes it was. As you can see by clicking through the photos...I had a hard time walking away.
The next morning we were up bright and early to catch our bus back to Hanoi, and our shuttle from Hanoi to Halong Bay, making for a full travel day - 12 hours in total. We collapsed in our $14/night hotel room for a sleepless night. But I suppose we were asking for it...$14/night? I spend more at Starbucks on the reg. The walls were paper thin, which allowed for a lovely symphony of barking dogs, scooters, horns, and spitting noises to make their way into our room. Needless to say, we were happy to be getting on a boat that night and sailing away from the noises that caused our ears to bleed the night before.
Boarding our boat (The Glory Legend) around noon, we were pleasantly surprised to find our suite nice and cozy (complete with a free bottle of wine! Although, it was red ... but beggars can't be choosers, amiright?!) We got ourselves sorted and were promptly sat for lunch. As the boat began to pull out of the harbour, we overheard a couple of couples chatting and getting to know each other, and one of the guys was from BC(!) (who now lives in Florida with his wife, and a couple from California). With us all being in the age range of 28-40, we quickly became friends, bonding over travel experiences, mojitos, beer, and things we miss from back home.
It was an action packed couple of days - kayaking, hiking, caving, eating, and participating in cooking classes - we barely had time to wipe the sweat from our brow before it was all over.
Once we were back on land we caught our shuttle back into Hanoi, this time, to stay. As we worked our way through the busy and cluttered city streets and towards our hotel, we found ourselves in the thick of it - a local food market, everything from pigs ears to ginger root. A bouquet of smells, I'll tell ya that. Despite the smells being a bit much at times, it was a really neat experience to be in the heart of local life like that. Every morning they would set up their stalls, fish still flopping around in the tub of water, vegetables being sorted, and fruit handed out. These images will probably be some of the things that I'll remember the most from our time in Vietnam.
Our time in Hanoi was spent walking around and taking in the busy city life. We even lucked out and were able to enjoy a CAR/SCOOTER FREE DAY in the city centre (and what a treat that was. No horn honking?! I think I could hear my thoughts again).
As our time in Vietnam comes to a close, I've been reflecting on it all and have only this to say as my final thoughts:
Yesterday I said to James, "if anyone tells me that they've become too comfortable in their life for one reason or another, I'll tell them to visit Vietnam for three weeks." I say this because Vietnam has taught me a lot and has challenged me, it's taken me truly out of my comfort zone and for that I suppose I should say, thank you.
However, what has truly weighed heavily on me is the lack of respect that is shown for our planet. There is so much litter; it's in the streets and the fields, they burn it or toss it down the sewers and into the rivers, eventually bringing it into our oceans and killing some of the most beautiful animals on this planet. But even with that being said, I know that that is not Vietnams biggest issue - which overwhelms me even more.
The thing about Vietnam is, it's an old country with a massive population (95 million compared to Canada's 35 million), it's poor, and it's a country that has been at war in the not so distant past. So where do you even start when there are so many foundational problems that need fixing?
I know that I'm no historian, and I'm not nearly educated enough to discuss this country and its history in length, but I would love to see Vietnam in a greater context, from more of a historical point of view which would hopefully give me more insight into modern day Vietnam. So if you know of any good books or documentaries that I should be reading or watching, please let me know in the comments below!
Thank you for reading and we wish you a very merry holiday season! The next time we chat will be from the Philippines where I'm hoping to relax by the pool and/or on the beach, a vacation within a vacation, if you will.
*Me. By the pool. Waiting for my mojito. Even if it's raining.