Halong Bay did not disappoint. It deserves to be a natural wonder of the world in its own right. We decided to do an overnight trip on a boat. The van ride to the bay was 3 hours long. And let me just tell you that in Asia, they pack these vans full. There were about 24 of us on this extended van and pop up seats were flying in from every direction to accommodate more and more backpackers. I had a freak out moment when I realized that my small bladder might fail me and I would have to ask the van to stop before our destination point. Luckily, as I was about to explode, we got to the harbor and I immediately bolted for the bathroom (toilet for my ozzie friends ,)).
After boarding the boat, the group of us got to know each other over lunch and drinks. We headed for the famous part of the bay which was extremely mystical looking. Through the thick fog, you could see faint outlines of rock formations that were never-ending. The gray clouds added an especially creepy feel. We all gathered on the top part of the boat and took a million photo’s. Once it got dark, we came back down and had dinner and more drinks.
The next morning, we all woke up to rain and had our morning coffee. Then, some of us went kayaking (not me). We explored some floating villages and made our way back to the boat.
After returning to Hanoi, I felt a cold come on. Hanoi is extremely cold (16 degrees C) and I really did not enjoy the city at all. The next couple of days were spent doing a walking tour through the rainy, cold weather and visiting the Ho Chi Minh museum. Through our time traveling, I have never wanted to leave a city more than I wanted to leave Hanoi. The next morning, we had an early flight out and while we were enjoying breakfast in a small tiny village (with NO tourists around), I saw a glimpse of a woman on her moped, hauling around a dead, bloody pig on her backseat. This was my last image of Hanoi and confirmation that this vegetarian needs to leave asap.
We are now sitting in Luang Prabang, Laos. Last night, we enjoyed the night markets and today we have explored the city on foot. We visited an ancient temple and saw the local museum. The best part about Laos are the Buddhist monks. I like to call them modern monks because they are all about iPhones and taking pictures on their digital cameras. I am pretty sure monks back in the day weren’t privy to these luxuries and that is why the modern monks here are the highlight of my trip so far.
Supposedly, this is the most beautiful city in Southeast Asia. I love Laos so far and I love it because it is in its natural form. It hasn’t been commercialized yet and there are fewer tourists here than any other place we’ve traveled to so far. In the coming years, I am sure that Laos will start to get noticed and be flooded with tourists in no time. At present, I am happy to enjoy it here without loads of people all around me.
I think we will probably stay here for another couple of days before we make our way somewhere else (perhaps Vientiane). From there, I think we will take a bus to Northern Thailand and make our way back to Bangkok before I fly to Mumbai and before Martin flies back to Berlin.
Only a couple of weeks left and Southeast Asia will be yet another travel chapter that’s closed. Right now, I plan to enjoy Laos as much as possible (it is an easy place to love).
Martin is trying to persuade me to do another overnight trekking trip where I may be subjected to even more leeches. I am leaning towards no. 😉 Instead, I plan to stay here and finish reading I hope they serve beer in hell. This book is shocking and slightly addicting. On a side note, I did finish the entire Millenium series by Stieg Larsson and The Girl in the Picture (the famous girl in the photo from the Vietnam War). I am so happy to have found my local used book store in each city we’ve been in. It’s a place where I feel most at home.
I’ll write again in a few days.