Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Sorry for being so Hanoi-ing last night"

- awesome punny drunk guy in my dorm 

Hanoi! It's where I'm at RIGHT NOW, which means for the first time since my trip started I'm not 2 weeks behind on posting. 

So Hanoi is pretty nice and chaotic... like a smaller Ho Chi Minh City. There are lots of lakes around, which I explored via bicycle. I even saw a water puppet show that was pretty entertaining (the art was created when the rice fields would flood. They made really elaborate puppets that float in the water and the scenes often depict daily life). There are also tons of war remnants - downed B52s, missiles, grenades, etc and this also happens to be the place of Ho Chi Minh's final resting. 

[sidenote: all my links generally take you to wikipedia because a. it's the first thing that pops up when I google things b. I like wikipedia and c. I'm too lazy and technologically out of date to doing some real good internet surfing so deal with it]

Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum. Uncle Ho wished to be cremated, but those less concerned with such matters erected this elaborate mausoleum to use him for propaganda purposes. Oh, also he isn't there right now. He's vacationing up in Russia, as he does every year at this time, for reasons that could not be articulated to me.  
Ho Chi Minh Museum
 Next to the mausoleum is the Ho Chi Minh Museum, which is the weirdest museum I've ever been to. The bottom floor has pictures and whatnot of Uncle Ho and an exhibit on Lao-Vietnam relations and looks the way you'd expect a historical museum to look. The top floor, where a giant statue of Ho Chi Minh greets you, is something else entirely. It would appear (few labels were in English, so I must guess here) that whoever designed the exhibit was had in interest more in modern art than in Ho Chi Minh. Included were informational tidbits presented like this:

Or this:

An explanation (if you can call it that) was next to this:

Weird, right? Overall, I learned virtually nothing of Ho Chi Minh's life or importance, but left rather stunned and confused. It was interesting, to say the least. There were also a few other fun surprises I found in the museum, too:

ahaha shat down. Yay maturity. 

I know this man well! This is Sukhbaatar, the famous Mongolian Hero who my province was named after.  This pin was a gift to Ho Chi Minh from the country of Mongolia. 
Anyway, to continue on my walking tour, I went over to a small lake in the middle of seemingly nowhere, where a B52 was shot down and nearby to a museum that was not quite constructed yet that will house EVEN MORE war remnants. What a mess we made.
B52 (or part of it at least)
Wreckage soon to be on display at the new museum
 After all that, I dipped off for a little cruise to take a vacation from travelling. I tell you, travelling is exhausting. I haven't stayed in any one place for longer than 4 days and I felt like I deserved a little relaxin. The 3 hour tour (just kidding, it was three days), took me to Ha Long Bay, a geological wonder in northeast Vietnam. The bay is made up of thousands of  "islands" of limestone, which most actually are less like islands and more like the peaks of mountains. Besides the stunning mountain range in the middle of the ocean, there are caves, national parks, and sandy beaches, to boot.

Day 1 included amazing food, a trip to the largest cave, some kayaking, and some socializing on the boat.

View from my room on the boat. Not too shabby. 

The boat, herself! There were 10 others on the boat from a variety of places: Holland, Spain, England, and Vietnam
The cave was a little goofy in that they had decorative lights everywhere, but it made for some pretty cool pictures. 

On our second day, we went to Cat Ba National Park, where there were some trekking options available. Most people said no, because it looked like rain, but me and a few other youngins, who haven't accepted our own mortality yet, thought they were wusses and went up anyhow. 

Oh dear god. 

The trail quickly disintegrated and became, more or less, straight rock climbing. No one could go in without a guide and our guide truly believed he was a monkey. As we teetered perilously on what he assured us was the trail, he grabbed vines and swung in front of us or, worse, jumped from rock to unstable rock in order to help us climb through the jungle. 

Very soon, it started to rain. Very soon after that, it started to pour. Very soon after that, we were drenched to bone and lost virtually all visibility. But did we turn around and go back? Oh heck no. Monkey Man wouldn't allow it. After 30 minutes of scaling slick wet boulders, we arrived at the top - which was glorious, as you can imagine. 

That weird hump on my side is my camera, which I was protecting with my life. 
 Remarkably, we survived the descent and upon waving goodbye and thanking our guide, he turned and disappeared into the Jungle.

Back on the boat, we cruised in and out of bays before docking at an AWESOME private island, complete with bungalows, buffets, kayaks, sunsets, and vicious monkeys.

Forgive me, but almost all the islands in the distance reminded me of the Ocean Temple in Majora's Mask. 
Ha! Look at that!
Pure Evil. 
Top of the Boat
In case you were interested in taking such lovely trip (which it was lovely), 3 days and 2 nights, with everything included but the beer, cost me $105. 

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