The Reception and entrance areas are only illuminated by the exhaust/humidity-hazy street lights. I notice a bicycle lock (about the same strength as the one I use in Vancouver) locking the 'brass' handle bars of the hotel's front entrance. A quiet scan of the dark room reveals a small figure (Voila, the receptionist) sleeping on the couch. I'm about to give up on my cigarette, when he jumps up, multi-blinks his eyes, and looks at me with that "Where am I look?". After waving the cigarette in front of his face and apologizing for waking him (Namaste gesture at one ear with head tilted), he opens the door for me. I smoke quickly so the kid can re-lock the door and go back to sleep asap.
Still no pictures on the blog. Maybe it's the hotel internet? But it let's me attach pics to email! Hu nos? (Who knows?) Actually, it MUST be Blogger. Their scheduling calendar insists that October 17, 2015 is a Tuesday, even it is Saturday today. Come on, guys and gals, this is MORE than embarrassing ! (Later I find out that it's a quirk with my new hotel's internet
Author's note: I have spent 5 days stomach-illness free with oodles of pictures, and non-existent to decent internet. These following posts are not quite perfect (Hey, I'm German after all) with respect to pictorial and textual editing, but I have to get them out there.
7 am in Hanoi. I'm almost all packed. Breakfast should start any minute (I hope they have yogurt) and around 8:15 am a bus will pick me up for a day trip to Ha Long, with a few hours boat ride thrown in. I just can't get this close and not make see the world heritage site of Ha Long Bay, can I ?
I get down to breakfast and when I spy on the other tables notice that it's not a buffet but that they bring you eggs and toast and ham. No yogurt in sight. OH OH. To eat or not to eat? That is the question. While sitting on the couch (same one the receptionist slept on earlier) and waiting for one of the 4 breakfast tables to have an empty spot, the receptionist brings me a menu (!!!). On first glance I like fried noodles with chicken, but alas, there is no chicken available ;-(. That also rules out the chicken noodle soup. No worries, I'm used to No hay! situations from Cuba and order the fried noodles with beef. Either this was the perfect choice or the feverish chewing of every tiny morsel was just what the gastroenterologist would order ;-)
|Hanoi's sidewalks waking up|
Naturally the bus only proceeds slowly through the maddening traffic, allowing me to take lots of pictures, which also keeps my mind off my stomach.
|Old man/woman in a 2nd floor window|
|thank God I don't have to ;-)|
|The patterns of doors and windows are SO GORGEOUS|
|No idea what's going on here ...|
|This bike is strapped with little fish traps that look like ice cream cones. It's about 3 hours to the ocean|
|the Red River (really?;-)|
|'rest' stop in one of those overpriced government mega-stores|
|but right across the street is a tiny private store selling a small selection for 1/5th of the government price ;-)|
|A fully functioning 'power washer' !|
|Yes, I used to do this when I was 15 and my legs hurt. Only this Moped is BATTERY-POWERED|
|Pity the bus driver. That's why they honk so much|
|Another toll station|
|following the pack to the promised land|
After I did the above self portrait, the Korean/Japanese kid in the back offered to take a picture of me with my camera. See below:
Empty plastic bottles and bags are floating everywhere and very few people pick them up. This guy is paid to do it
|Yes, this is where I am|
|'Peter', the fabulous and funny tour guide|
The tourist horde is being led through a complicated cave that was only discovered in 1993.
|The colours used for illumination are a bit gaudy for my taste|
|Brings back memories of the movie Alien|
|Was Bruegel at work here? It looks like the sun beam is burning a human figure's face away !|
At some point I make the mistake of looking up.
A few tonnes of stalactite in strange forms is hanging right over my head
But it stays there until I am safely out of the cave
Enough dripping stones for now. For anyone having trouble keeping stalagmites and stalactites apart, just think of an unwelcome truth faced by both older females and males and you will never have problems again distinguishing the two again (-mites and -tites I mean). Tits come down !
|White Dragon heading towards new adventures|
|WHAT is that?|
|The sky is falling on our heads !!!!|
False alarm. Sky stays where it belongs but what is that?
|There be sea monsters !|
The boat slows down and approaches one of the pinnacles.
|Enviable but of course earning snippy comments from European envious tourists (naturally the comments involve money)|
|Durch diese hohle Gasse muessen sie kommen...|
The tour operators insist that 2 people must share a kayak, which can be a nuisance but allows me to get to know Whatshername from Korea. She is a translator too !
The tunnel brings us to a round body of water encompassed by the ring-shaped island. All of a sudden it becomes very quiet; the many puttering engines of all those boats out there no longer can be heard.
|First a circular wet spot reachable by a tight tunnel and now Vagina Art on the rock walls?|
|a vendor or garbage collector demonstrating the local rowing style|
|mandarins bought from a vendor on the float start a trend. They are so fresh and yummy, I buy them everywhere now|
|The White Dragon's quest continues|
The translation of the Chinese word for Chicken (I assume the same is true for Vietnamese) is tricky because another perfectly valid translation is Cock. Given the not perfect English of the tour guide I am waiting tongue in cheek for him to mix up the scenarios when he explains that the island pictured below is called Kissing Chicken Island or Fighting Cocks Island.
|cock fight with spectators|
5:30 approaches and the colours of the sun approaching the horizon make saying Good Bye to Halong Bay even harder. NOT the last time I have been here!
|Time to get off the boat|
The bus driver is happy not to have to circle along all the hotels because the tour guide convinced a number of us to all get dropped off together at the Ha Noi Night Market. And GOOD DEALS are to be made here; I am considering sending a postal parcel home since I figured out that Vietnamese Postal rates are very low. Better than buying a suitcase !
On the stumble (simply tired; still staying away from booze) back to the hotel afterwards I stop in a small coffee seller's store. Someone brings me a diminutive glass with a sample (thing thimble) and as soon as my lips come into contact with the stuff, I know that I HAVE to HAVE this stuff, even if it is called Weasel # 5 Coffee ;-)
|There's a weasel in my bed !!!|