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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 14: Goodbye Halong... Hello again, Hanoi!

Once again, we were both up EARLY to catch our next mode of transportation!  Our guide met us at the hotel lobby at 8:00am to put us on a minibus back to the wharf.  We made it safely, and boarded a huge "junk boat," where we got nice and comfy for the ride back to Halong City!

There we were, sailing the ocean, once again, heading through the 1969 tiny islands that make up beautiful Halong Bay!

We stopped here for about 45 minutes, while some people went kayaking! We chose to just hang on the roof of the boat instead, since neither of us had our bathing suits on...

  ... and people watched!  A community of around 1,600 people live on Hạ Long Bay, in 4 different fishing villages, and this is one of them!  If you look closely, you can see a small boat being rowed by (what I would guess is) a 5 year old little girl with her equally young friends sitting on the edge!

We made it to Hanoi earlier than planned!  By 4:00pm, I was checking into the Splendid Star Hotel, where for $20 a night I was given free breakfast and a yummy welcome drink!

Our hotel was just around the corner from the famous St. Joseph's Cathedral, built in 1886. Apparently they still have multiple masses here everyday!

We dropped our bags at the hotel and headed for nearby Hoan Keim Lake, where according to legend, Emperor Le Loi handed a magic sword to the Golden Turtle God and hence gave the lake its present name Hoan Keim, which means "Lake of the Returned Sword."  Vietnamese locals gather around the lake at all times of the day and night, exercising, relaxing with friends on one of the hundreds of benches, smooching their boyfriend or girlfriend, sleeping on their scooters, reading a book in the grass, playing with their dog, or partaking in a friendly little game of badminton or hackysack!  I love this picture of these two friends enjoying the view of the lake from atop this gigantic tree!

I had my own little moment of taking in the beauty all around me as well!  Aaron and I sat here on the curb near the south/east end of the lake for quite a while, and were approached by at least 5 donut selling ladies, who tote their donuts around in baskets and say, "Hello!  Hello! You buy?", sticking the donuts right up in your face so you can't help but smell their deliciousness!  Great tactic ladies!  I finally realized the only way for them to leave was to motion that if I ate them I would get really fat.  They always laughed, nodded their heads, and would walk away!

What is it with Vietnamese paying to find out their weight?! ... and in public none the less!

Beautiful ancient structures are found all around the lake! 
Handsome, American men, like this guy, are not so common!

I'd love to know how old all the trees are surrounding Hoan Keim Lake!  They must be hundreds and hundreds of years old!

As we were walking around, we spotted a little island with a connecting bridge, and found out it was Jade Island where a famous temple stands.

The Temple of the Jade Mountain was built in the 18th century, in honor of a 13th century military leader.

The only way to reach the temple is to walk across the charming Huc Bridge, which means "morning sunlight bridge!"

Young Vietnamese couples love to come to the lake to sit and chat togther, and probably cuddle and make-out too!  Let's be honest.  We were all teenagers once!

The Huc Bridge... once again.

I actually read online somewhere that there is a motorbike for each of Vietnam’s ninety million inhabitants!  I believe it!  Scooters are not just parallel parked along the curb, they line nearly every sidewalk, like this! There were plenty of times when I would be walking on the sidewalk and run into a cluster of scooters, pushing me out onto the street to compete with the busy traffic!

The Huc bridge, and Jade Island after dark...

We decided to head across the street (to the north end of the lake) to check out the Old Quarter.  But this wasn't just your average crossing the street adventure.  In Hanoi's Old Quarter, crossing the street is an extreme sport. My first impulse was to make a mad dash and hope for the best, but after watching a few natives, I realized it was best to cross in tiny spurts, giving the oncoming traffic a chance to swerve around me, instead of me trying to dodge them. I'd like to think I've mastered the art of crossing the street in Vietnam now! ***

We decided we were both in the mood for some western food, and particularly somewhere with air conditioning!  I'm telling you, it is HOT here!  So, we spotted this charming little Italian joint near St. Joseph's Cathedral, and ducked in for dinner... which we ended up asking for "to go", so we could take it back to the hotel, and eat, while we watched Discovery Channel's show, TABOO, in my room!  I love that show! 

We're glad we're back in Hanoi, but sad because it means our vacation is coming to an end.  We're not sure what we're going to do tomorrow, but I'm sure it'll be fun!  It always is! :)


  1. goodness, the video of you crossing the street...i was nervous for you!

  2. Yea, you and me both, sister! It's definitely nerve wracking, but you HAVE TO DO IT if you want to get anywhere in Hanoi! The key is to not make any sudden movements, and to always watch the traffic!